She stopped believing in soulmates, so she maintained they both had other people to love out there. But he was the first and the last person she chose to spend her time on, and that was what made their love story a fairytale in its own right.
Marinette loved to give gifts, but the thing she gave more freely than anything else was herself.
She stared at him, and the empty blankness from before was back. He cringed, reaching out for her while she flinched away. His hand dropped back to his side, hanging limply, uselessly.
“Yeah,” he said lamely. “We don’t have to. It was just a suggestion. I’m sorry.”
“We’re not getting a cat.”
The word rang out, and Marinette looked across the space at him. She was only two feet away, but he couldn’t reach her.
Four years of her life pining after the same person, and suddenly, he was no longer in it. They talked on occasion, but distance and university workload led to messages eventually petering out. Marinette expected her world to end, or for everything to change. But the world moved on, and so did her life.
When they entered a club, all eyes were on them. He said everyone was looking at her. She insisted everyone was looking at him.
“I’m gonna kill them.” She stood up, marching towards the door.
“Mari, no.” Adrien grabbed her arm, pulling her back.
“What could they possibly be doing that makes so much noise?” She struggled against his hold for a moment, but he just pulled her into his chest.
“Worst neighbors ever,” she grumbled, smooshing her face into him for comfort.
He tucked her head under his chin, wrapping his arms around her waist. “You want to get back at them?”
He looked down at her, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “I have a few ideas.”
“Bastard!” he cried out, claws lashing out towards the man’s face. Ladybug grabbed his arm, her grip firm but heartbreakingly gentle.
“Chat, stop,” she reprimanded quietly. He struggled against her hold, anger radiating off of him. “Chat, it’s over. He can’t hurt anyone else.”
“He’s hurt so many people! He hurt you-!”
“And he hurt you too.” She grabbed his other arm and pulled him away from the man who used to be Hawkmoth. The man who was turning away in shame. Or disappointment. She couldn’t tell. “But he doesn’t have his miraculous any more.”
She watched as the anger shifted, just a turn to the left, and she was holding her partner as his body was wracked with sobs.
“It’s over, it’s okay, it’s over,” she cooed quietly, running her fingers lightly through his hair.
He shook against her. His voice was thick and aching when he finally managed to speak. “It’s over, but it’s not okay.”
Ladybug’s fingers just quietly danced over his scalp. She couldn’t disagree.
Adrien didn’t like living with regret, but when he remembered being Chat Noir- as many happy times as he could remember- the cold, dark feeling slithered its way in and settled heavily in his stomach.
He never told her he loved her. He never found out who she was. He never really knew her. And he never would, because he could never see her again. Ladybug and Chat Noir didn’t exist anymore.
Whoever said that children grow up in the blink of an eye wasn’t watching close enough, Adrien decided. He wasn’t going to let that be him.
Sometimes, as he lies in the bed at night, he feels his heart filling up, spilling over and onto the sheets, filling the spaces that are lacking her. At times like that, he thinks he’s too old to be pining. Then he thinks he’s not old enough.
The one-bedroom apartment wasn’t the worst thing either of them had seen, but it wasn’t exactly extravagant. After years of depending on his father, Adrien was used to a much higher standard of living.
“But,” she reminded him, “we’re basically broke. This is all we can afford.” She said it with authority, but there was a strain of uncertainty in her words. Are you sure about this? Are you okay with this? With us?
“This,” he said, pulling her closer and kissing her forehead, “is all I need. Everything else is extra.”
She rolled her eyes but reached up on her tiptoes to kiss him anyway.
He leaned down, pressing his forehead against her stomach, a goofy smile on his face. She laughed, batting at him playfully, but he simply pressed his hands against the curve of her belly.
“I can feel her, Mari. She’s going to love you so much.”
“Almost as much as we love her?”
She wore a navy gown to the congratulatory celebration of her new line. It showed off her figure, had an open back and a deep slit, and practically screamed ‘look but don’t touch’. She was glowing all night. Adrien was burning.
When they returned to their house in the early hours of the morning, he finally let his touch sear her skin as well.
“I used to be Chat Noir, a decade ago.”
She stilled at the words, looking at him with horror in her eyes. It wasn’t the look he expected. He didn’t understand until she opened her mouth. “I used to be Ladybug.”
It had been years and he had moved on, letting the ‘what if’ from lycée blow away like smoke in the whirlwind of university life. He had loved her once, but he didn’t really know her anymore. And yet five words uttered in the space of their first five minutes together again and she had already reached into his chest and reclaimed his heart.
“I missed you, you know.”
Alya lifted her glass, a wicked glint in her eyes. The room turned to her, waiting to hear what the maid of honor had to say. “You know, these two have been dancing around each other since collège,” she started. “Have any of you heard about the time she stole his phone?”
She clutched at his hand, her voice coming out thick and abused. “She’s okay- she- she’s here, and she’s alive, and she- she’s okay, she’s okay!”
They knew she would be. But the reminder that she might not have, that something could have gone wrong, had been ever present in the back of their minds. Now, Adrien couldn’t help his own tears of relief from flowing. “She’s okay, Mari. She’s beautiful. She’s perfect.”
She realized very quickly he was not to be left unsupervised in the kitchen.
He didn’t even get to say goodbye. To her, to him, to that life. But he, at least, knew how to deal with abandonment. He moved on, but he never forgot nights of chasing after red and black.
He could feel the tears welling up before he could stop them, and he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t stop himself, so instead he stared at the wall opposite him, rapidly trying to blink back the treacherous wetness. Just a memory of a regret, and suddenly he was sitting in an empty classroom, trying and failing to stymie the tears streaming down his face.
He didn’t notice the door opening until he heard a whispered, “Oh, Adrien,” and suddenly, two arms were wrapped around him. He instinctively curled into the warmth, burying his wet face into their neck even as the streams of tears continued. He didn’t sob, or shake, or speak. He just let himself cry until the tears stopped, and then he pulled back to look into the face of a very concerned Marinette Dupain-Cheng.
They were friends and had known each other since collège, yes, but they weren’t this close. But she was there and warm and she cared even if she didn’t know what was going on, so when she asked, “What’s wrong?” in that soft, sweet tone, he couldn’t do anything but pull her close and let himself fall apart in her arms.
His days with her were so bright, but when she left she took the color with her.
dynamic, adj. and n.
Watching him play was almost as powerful as listening. His eyes were caught in the middle distance, looking at the music but not seeing the world around him. As he crescendoed to a high point, the tension in his body built until he left one last crashing sound in the air, and then he stilled, standing on a precipice. The last of the cacophonous chord trailed on, a fading memory of itself, as the world held its breath, waiting for the fall. Instead of another crash, he quietly melted into the next section, breathing out gently to the soft, slow melody.
When Adrien played the piano, he portrayed such intense emotion that Marinette could hardly believe anyone looked at him and only saw a model’s face.
The meetings dragged on and on and on, one person or another droning on endlessly about something he didn’t care about, and eventually, Adrien realized he wasn’t even listening. He was just showing up and existing.
When he came home and told her that he had quit his job, she blinked in surprise, but she didn’t ask why. She just asked what they were going to do next.
Ladybug was in love with flying. Chat Noir was enraptured by the fall.
“Well hey there, nice of you to drop in.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t do it on purpose!”
“Alya,” she scoffed into the phone, “I am not taking relationship advice from trashy erotica.”
“One, it’s not erotica, it’s just an adult romance novel-” Another snort from Marinette. “-and two, you should try something. You haven’t even had a date in two weeks, much less anything else.”
“I can live without sex, you know.”
“But do you want to?”
“I’m busy. I’m happy without a relationship for now.”
“For now until the distant future, I’ll content myself with the ‘adult romance novels’ you recommend.”
“Okay, hey, calm down. You’re being irrational.”
- “You’ll be better than he was, Adrien. You’re here. There’s already a difference.”
“The worst part of summer break is the freckles. They always get worse during the summer.”
“Aw, but I think they’re cute.”
“Well, y-yeah! They’re like tiny… stars! You have a galaxy on your skin.”
“Oh, um. T-thank you! Thank you.”
Marinette smiled giddily at Adrien from across the table as they clinked their glasses. “I still can’t believe this. I can’t- they actually- I actually… My own line.” The last three words came out on a breath, spoken quietly as if she was afraid to disturb the dream and wake up.
“Your big break,” he replied with a laugh at her inability to speak. After taking a sip, he set the glass down and leaned across the table, goofy smile on his face. “So, this is your celebration, after all. You get to choose the way we spend the night.”
She leaned forward, her lips just shy of his before pulling back, looking up at him with an innocent smile. “Anything I want…?”
He smirked in response. “The night is yours, my lady.”
“Generally, this is where you say something like, ‘Thank you’ or ‘Oh Adrien, take me now!’”
Marinette just kept laughing, unable to form words through her giggles.
“Mari- Marinette, please stop laughing. Marinette, please.”
“I-I’m sorry, I can’t-” She broke into another bout of giggles, unable to finish her sentence.
At her unending laughter, Adrien’s tone took on an almost insulted hue. “I was trying to be romantic.”
Marinette kept laughing for a few more moments until she could control herself again, though when she spoke her voice still bubbled with mirth. “We have very different ideas of romance, then.”
He pouted and she laughed again, leaning over to kiss his cheek. “It’s a good thing you’re cute.”
“You’ve been working for four hours non-stop, take a break.” Adrien stepped between the girl and her dress form.
Her expression darkened for a moment, but then she just tried to push him away. “I will, I will, just let me finish this dress.” Her arms snaked around him but were stopped before she could reach the dress.
He knew she was stubborn, but he was determined to win this time. “You’re going to work yourself to death!”
“No I won’t, I just need you to let me-”
“I have to, Adrien!” Her voice rose in frantic panic before she caught herself. She continued in a more subdued mutter, “You don’t understand.”
His face, formerly set in obstinate denial, softened as he understood what was going through her head. “It was one rejection, Marinette. You’ll have other chances. But not if you don’t pace yourself.”
She looked like she wanted to argue, but instead she slumped against him, hiding her face. “Okay. I’ll take a break. Five minutes.”
She laughed tiredly in response, snaking her hands around and slipping them into his back pockets, closing her eyes and leaning against him. “Okay, fifteen.”
“I can’t do this right now. I need- I need space. To think.”
This was not what he had expected when he had decided to share his secret. He wanted to reach out to her, to promise her it would be okay, to fix this. But a secret kept from each other for ten years sat between them, and he was helpless to do anything about it. So he just released a strangled, “Okay.”
“Marinette, I really, really want to kiss you right now.”
“On the first date? Why M. Agreste, how forward.” Her voice was teasing, but she didn’t resist when he pulled her closer.
He cupped her face, pressing their foreheads together. “I’ve learned my lesson. I’m finally being honest.”
“Kiss me then.”
Even with her permission, he moved slowly and kissed her softly before pulling back.
When she pulled him in for a second kiss, she was a lot less hesitant than he had been.
She reminded him that home was not a place, but a feeling.
She came over to his house, not for work, not for a date, just because they both had a free night and she felt more comfortable sitting next to him. She might not have thought it was a big shift, but that night, he decided that for him, she was forever.
“I always knew you two would get together!” Alya yelled triumphantly as they told her. “I mean, you took a long fucking time, but I was right in the end.”
Later that night, Marinette made sure to tell Adrien that she didn’t think they were inevitable. When he asked her what she meant, she just smiled and told him, “At this point, we are a choice.”
Sometimes, Adrien remembered he was terrified of Marinette. She was a human inferno, and she would not let anything get in her way. She was bright and warm but impossible to hold back, and she would not hesitate to burn you if you got on her bad side.
But Adrien was a moth drawn to her flame, and her fiery temper was just another irresistible part of her.
He sits by the grave every year, telling her stories of everything she’d missed, but he always finishes with a “to be continued”. It’s his own way of pretending all stories are never ending.
Marinette rolled over, squeezing her eyes shut as the loud cries of her child pierced the silence.
“Adrien,” she whispered, prodding the somehow still sleeping figure. “Our little blessing is awake again and blessing us with her lovely voice. At two in the morning.”
He blinked blearily at her. “Is it my turn again?”
“I carried her for nine months.”
“I think all of your students are in love with you. Should I be jealous?”
“I think all of your interns are in love with you.”
She laughed at that. “I think student-teacher romances are much more steamy. I’m sure I have more to complain about.”
“More than boss-employee romances? Have you never read a single adult novel?” Adrien’s face was composed into exaggerated shock.
“Unfortunately, yes.” She crinkled her nose, and he laughed and kissed her nose before declaring himself the winner of that conversation.
Marinette felt a weight on her shoulders, and she glanced at the jacket now covering them.
“Next time, you should wear something more practical,” Adrien said, voice surprisingly steady despite his refusal to meet her gaze. She withered a little at the admonishment, and he immediately went to correct his mistake. “Not- not that you didn’t look good! You are- The dress is beautiful! But, ah, well…” he trailed off and blushed, glancing up and meeting her eyes for a split second before losing his nerve. “You don’t have to worry about impressing me or anything…”
The child blows too hard, making a raspberry sound with her lips, and Emma laughs and shows her how to make the kazoo make noise. She crinkles her nose in concentration, staring at the toy instrument like it is the key to life. Adrien smiles, watching his daughter bond with his soon-to-be-grandchild, and feels the same warmth he’s learned to cherish flood his body.
To touch something with the lips. To profess your love. To exchange excitement and happiness. To pour your soul into another and in turn be filled. To say good morning. To promise devotion.
To say you’re sorry. To say you didn’t mean it. To say goodbye.
To say hello again, I missed you so much.
Chat Noir turned to her, all sunny smiles and excitement.
She wanted to slap him. She wanted to lecture and yell until the fear that had crystallized when he had pushed himself in front of her- when she had seen a blade of ice pierce him and freeze him and a smiling akuma victim try to shatter him- melted away with the rest of the ice.
Instead of being loud to cover her weakness, she folded into it. She placed her hand on his cheek and let her fear show.
“Never do that again. Please.”
His eyes widened just a fraction, surprise replacing his excitement before it shifted into something else. He took her hand away from his cheek and placed a gentle kiss on her knuckles, a silent oath.
But the fear of what exactly he was promising her lingered.
“I want to be your last first kiss.”
“Are those song lyrics?”
He laughed. “Probably. They’re still true.”
Most mornings were muttered obscenities directed at the clock and the burning feeling of coffee frantically gulped on the way out the door, but every so often he woke up to the image of unkempt loveliness splashed with late morning light, dark lashes still brushing freckled cheeks, a cheek squished against a pillow, and pink lips partly open, letting deep breaths pass through. On mornings like those, he would quietly watch the image before him with minute attention until the rising and falling of her chest lightened and her eyes stirred behind her still closed eyelids, and he’d reach over and brush stray strands of hair out of her face and welcome her to wakefulness with a smile. She would inevitably groan and close her eyes again but snuggle closer and let him kiss her until she was willing to face the daylight.
Marinette wanted to laugh at the awe on Adrien’s face. As he had looked around the room bedecked in blankets and pillows and twinkle lights, his eyes had gone wide with a childish glee that Marinette was sorely sorry she hadn’t photographed.
Later that night, after hours of movies, too many snacks, and all around shenanigans, she happened to glance over and see that Adrien had fallen asleep, sprawled out and comfortable, lit only by the yellow glow of the twinkle lights. The shadows on his face were exaggerated by the lighting, yet she could see the ghost of a smile remaining on his face, even in sleep.
For the second time that day, she wished she could have taken a picture. But no matter what she wanted, she couldn’t make herself disturb the quiet peace of the moment.
His heart must be bottomless, he reflected as he lay alone in bed. Because it was filled with pain and longing and bitterness and regret and confusion and yet it still had room for love for her, even after she had broken it open.
Sometimes: The look in his eyes when she was turned the other way. The unthinking brush of her hands over his. The adrenaline racing through her veins as she asked to see him again tomorrow. The thought of her whenever he saw flowers, or flour, or fabric.
But always: The determination to listen, to hear. The decision to support, to give. The choice to come back, to stay.
Adrien blinked as he remembered he was sitting on the steps of his lycée and not in his own world. “Oh, hey Nino. I was just…”
“Staring at Marinette. I get it.” Nino glanced over to where Marinette was laughing with Alya, running her fingers through her hair, which was down for once.
The two exchanged a look and Adrien felt his cheeks heat up. “It’s not anything creepy! Just… the way she looks sometimes. I can’t look away.”
“Sometimes?” Nino joked. Adrien shoved him.
She was always so expressive, letting her highs and lows carry her through a wave of emotion. So maybe that was what was so scary as she stared down at the blood, holding her stomach. There was nothing in her face.
Ladybug swung her feet idly over the edge of the building while Chat Noir watched her from the back, eyes lingering on the moonlight caught in her hair. Feeling his stare, she turned around and gestured for him to come sit with her. He slid into place beside her without a thought for the ground hundreds of feet below him- how easily anyone else could fall and get hurt. Ladybug showed the same disregard for caution as she threw an arm over the edge and shifted to place her head in his lap. The two sat there- young and invincible and unthinkingly full of boundless power- and they quietly watched the moon over the Parisian skyline.
After they broke apart, it took time to reassemble the shards of their relationship. But awkward silences resolved into long talks and heavy confessions, and when they came together again, the picture was different but beautiful nonetheless. More complete, even with the fractures.
He was worried about what she’d think about him in glasses, but she was very quick to alleviate those concerns.
“You’re not old, but you’re on the older side, so we want to watch this pregnancy a little closer as it develops, but you both look healthy so far.”
The relief was evident on both Adrien and Marinette’s faces. But it was quickly turned ashen by the nurse’s next question.
“Any reason that you waited?”
Adrien had always liked being with Marinette’s parents. The Dupain-Chengs glowed with the warmth of family, and almost from the second he had met them, they had extended that warmth to him. When he stepped back into their lives years later, with the knowledge that he was now dating their daughter, he expected things to be awkward. But Tom simply smiled and put a comforting hand on his shoulder as Sabine enveloped him in a hug. He quietly realized that to some people, at least, family came naturally.
Two bright, scared green eyes peered up over the side of their bed as both Adrien and Marinette fought off sleep to look at their little girl.
“I had a bad dream. Can I sleep in your bed?”
“Of course,” Adrien answered while Marinette scooted to make room.
Emma clambered over the side and rolled into place, smiling as her parents both curled around her.
“Do you-” Marinette yawned, but valiantly continued on, “Do you want to talk about the dream?”
“No. Jus’ wanna… sleep here.”
“Okay. We’ll protect you.”
“Love you…” Emma whispered as her eyes fluttered shut.
Marinette smiled, even through her tiredness. “We love you, too.”
“Always and forever,” Adrien added, catching Marinette’s eyes with a tired smile of his own.
Ladybug looked at the boy blankly for a few long seconds. And then a huge grin spread across her face.
“So, Adrien, what’s this about you being a fan?”
She looked around the room where something had obviously gone very, very wrong. She wasn’t quite sure she wanted to know what.
“Uh…” he looked at her sheepishly. “Happy anniversary?”
A pause. A glance to the flames still sputtering in the corner and to the poor girl clutching a fire extinguisher like a lifeline. And then… Laughter. His eyes widened in confusion as she grabbed him and pulled him into a tight hug.
“Oh, your luck never changes, huh, kitty?”
He rubbed the back of his neck, fighting back the blush rising on his cheeks.
“Maybe next time,” she started, playing with the corner of his collar, “we can do something a little less… This.”
He watched as she cooed down at their new baby girl, smile tired and relieved but so full of love. She lifted her head and met his gaze, and in a quiet voice, so as not to wake the baby, said, “I suck at science, but there’s no way this is just chemicals. How else can you measure love?”
pause, n. and v.
In the spaces between her words, in the moments between one thought and another, talking about some lecture he had missed for staring at her, he would wonder what she would do if he kissed her. He’d open his mouth, about to finally say something in the empty space. But then he would pause, guilt and regret pulling him back to a memory of another girl, and he would look away, sealing his lips again.
Adrien watched Emma leave the room, then turned to Marinette, confused. “Did I just tell her that she could go on an unsupervised trip to another country for a week?”
Marinette didn’t look up from her coffee. “Yep.”
“And l promised to give her money for it?”
“...Teenagers are terrifying and powerful.”
She snorted in response. “Maybe, but really you’re just soft.”
He stood in the shade of the school, breathing in the smell. Memories of a week ago drifted in with the petrichor, memories of when he had given his umbrella to Marinette. It wasn’t their first meeting, but it was their first something.
Adrien was willing to wait to find out what.
He hated the whole affair: prim and proper and nothing like her. She was wild energy and endless creativity and breathless excitement. She was life and happiness embodied. She wouldn’t have been able to stand the stifling suits and stiff flowers and heavy condolences. But funerals were for the ones she left behind more than the dearly departed.
He smiled up at her from down on one knee, and she couldn’t stop her lip from shaking. She hadn’t pegged herself for a happy crier.
Total destruction starts with something small. A single spark becomes a consuming fire. A hairline fracture spreads until everything shatters. A single brick can force a wall to crumble if it’s removed.
Adrien looked at his father, and quietly said, “No.”
The word crackled with electricity in the deadly silent air between the two. And in his defiant eyes, there was a spark.
There was a girl in his freshman physics course with dark hair and bright eyes just the wrong shade of blue. Every time he saw that girl, he thought of bluebell eyes.
When he had another class with her two years later, he looked at her without the ghost of another girl in his thoughts.
He made the mistake of making fun of her clumsiness once, and never again. She had taken one look at him and promptly turned around and tripped in front of a coworker who was only too happy to catch her. If his hands lingered a little longer than necessary, apparently only Adrien noticed.
Marinette looked up at Chat Noir as he grabbed her hand. “You need to run,” he said, worry evident in his voice. “Do you trust me?”
“Yes.” Her voice came in a breathy rush as the truth of that statement fell down on her. “More than anything.”
He smiled down at her before he took off. She gripped his hand a little tighter but didn’t let herself fall behind.
Some days, she didn’t want to stop until she was out of breath, sweaty and sated beneath him, smiling up at him with an innocence that really shouldn’t be possible in that situation. Some days, she was satisfied with curling into his chest and just breathing him in until she fell asleep.
“I can’t believe this. We’re all separating. This is terrible.”
“Alya, it’s not the end of the world.” Marinette tried to be soothing, but when she looked to Adrien and Nino for assistance, the former wouldn’t even meet her gaze while the latter just shook his head.
“It is! How are we all going to different universities? We’re so spread out across France.”
“At least none of us went abroad?”
“Don’t even joke about that!”
Marinette was trying to stay positive, but the negativity surrounding all of them was hard to ignore. “We’ll still see each other. Weekends and holidays, and there are always other ways to stay in contact.”
“It won’t be the same.”
Marinette released a sigh, finally giving in to the bitter atmosphere. “No, it won’t be.”
They decided that horror movies were better to be watched in private.
Her favorite thing was when his fingers danced across her skin, playing silent masterpieces only he could hear. When he took her as his instrument, he had the ability to pour a symphony through her veins with only his fingertips trailing over her bare skin, leaving a song of heat and anticipation in their wake.
He should have assumed that he would see her around again. He knew that fashion was her dream, and he knew that she was more determined than anyone he had ever met, and he was at least aware that he was working administration in one of the top fashion companies in the world. And yet he was still struck dumb when he first saw her, rounding the corner with a coffee in one hand and a stack of papers in the other. His faculties of speech all came back at once, his built up attempts at words all bursting out in a shout of, “Marinette!”
She spilled the coffee.
He offered to buy her another one.
The shadow fell over her sketchbook before she heard the voice.
“He’s only your friend because he feels sorry for you.” Chloe.
Marinette knew that Adrien wanted them to get along now that they were in lycée. She knew he wanted Chloé to have more friends and had hoped that somehow Marinette would be the key to that, as she had been for other outcasts. But if she was going to come up and insult her out of nowhere, Marinette was not going to play nice. “And the only reason he was your friend was because he had no other options.”
“I’m sure you’ve noticed that he’s picking me over you now that he has a choice. That’s why you’re here, aren’t you? Because you think you can scare me off and get him alone again, so that he has no other choice but to run back into your claws?” Marinette closed her sketchbook, tucking the pencil away in her bag as she stood up. “It’s too bad, Chloé, because I’m not leaving him. But I am leaving now, because you’re blocking my light.” She turned but had one last remark for the other girl. “Stick with yellow, green really isn’t your color.”
He walked her home after class one day, making a comment about how he should have done it more in collège, because she had so obviously needed it. They both laughed, and then, in tandem, their steps slowed, as if the image of the short walk reminded them how short that one was as well, and they wanted to prolong it for as long as possible.
Every time after that, it became a game. To see just how slowly they could walk without stopping. Stretching out their time together in languid steps and shared, knowing smiles.
Adrien enjoyed the night, but his favorite constellations were the ones he traced along Marinette’s body. He connected freckle to freckle, with his eyes, his fingertips, his lips. And when she pulled him away to kiss him gently, she filled him with stardust.
He loved her and she loved him, but they loved each other in the most confusing way possible.
He liked her, and she liked him; they were seventeen and it should have been simple. They should have started then. But they were scared, and they were slow, and they were unsure. So they tentatively closed the distance between them in fractions, first a half, then a fourth, then an eighth, and never meeting in the middle. Some infinite series eventually converge, but theirs was not truly infinite. And before they could ever touch, their three years were over.
“Adrien!” she called from the bathroom. “Adrien, come here! There’s something I think you’ll want to see.”
The tests said that it was likely an abnormal chromosome, and that they could have more in the future. But Marinette wasn’t sure she was ready to keep trying. Adrien wasn’t going to put her through that, so he did what he could. He held her, but not too close.
“You still have this?” she asked, holding up the luck charm she had given him almost three years ago.
He colored slightly but covered up any embarrassment with a smile. “I need all the luck I can get.”
“Ah, is that all?” Her tone was teasing but her eyes held something else in them. But he couldn’t read them, as they weren’t quite meeting his own.
He opened his mouth to answer before he realized he couldn’t really put it into words. His attachment to a little trinket she had given him on a whim seemed insignificant when he tried translating feeling into explanation. So he just muttered, “Well, maybe not.”
There wasn’t a room in the house that didn’t hold some remnant of her: her sketchbooks stacked haphazardly on the desk, loose scraps of fabric draped over chairs, marigold flowers on the windowsill, cookie sheet still in the sink. She was everywhere even though she was gone, and it would have made him happy if he wasn’t aware that soon, she would fade.
Their mistake was thinking that there wasn’t more. Their mistake was thinking that they had uncovered every layer. There is always more to discover. And sometimes, there really is bliss in ignorance.
He never regretted quitting his job, but he came close when he saw the dark circles under her eyes after getting home from work late. Again. He knew he had to do something.
He went back to school only because he had no idea what else to do, but he couldn’t stand another night of sitting and waiting to figure it out.
They stared at each other, both surprised at what had passed his lips. But then the thought settled in, warm and comforting, and he smiled and repeated it for good measure.
“I love you.”
There was one evening, when he sat beside her on her balcony, watching the setting sun bathe her in its fiery glow, that he thought she might be the most beautiful person he would ever meet. Her eyes flickered with faraway thoughts, and her expression was simple and at ease as she studied the purple painted sky. The need to reach out and touch her, to curl his hand around hers and selfishly steal a moment of that beauty for himself, shot through his very being, but he was scared to interrupt her moment with the sky.
Night eventually settled in, curling around his shoulders with a heavy weight, impressing upon him that the opportunity was lost. She eventually turned back to him, eyes bright and present, but his hand could no longer move.
“I’m going to be a teacher,” he announced as he walked in the door.
Marinette looked up from her project, blinking owlishly as she processed the information.
“It’s a big change from working for my dad, so it’ll be like starting over, but I really think… I think I’ll like it.”
She set her sketchbook to the side and smiled at him. “Then do it.”
He grinned back. “I will.”
If she ever wanted his attention, she would start baking. By the time the kitchen was full of the sweet smell of pastries, he would always come running.
She was only two feet away, but he couldn’t reach her.
He still tried.
“We always come back to each other. I’ve lost you once- no, twice already. And I always found my way back to you. Can’t this be the same?”
She crossed her arms, not meeting his eyes. “How long did we go, dating someone we only half knew? What does that say about our relationship?”
“That we’ve learned our lesson and will never keep another secret?” His voice was a plea. “We can work to fix this. Please just let us.”
She dropped her arms and nodded, unsure but unable to say no. He was and would always be her biggest weakness.
“Now, dear princess, what can this humble jester do to please your ladyship?” Adrien bowed deeply, winking at Marinette who watched from afar.
The little girl giggled at her father, but stifled them as she tried to compose herself into a graceful noblewoman. “A dance, dear jester.”
“A dance, you say?” he smirked, his eyes moving up to meet Marinette’s. “If that’s the case, I need a partner.”
Marinette’s eyes widened in realization just seconds before he descended on her, scooping her up and twirling her around to the delighted peals of laughter from Emma.
He once told her he felt bad for the letter x. She laughed at him for it, but he forgave her. She didn’t really know the feeling of never quite being the right fit, of being forgotten and left behind, never used to full potential. He hoped she never would.
She had to leave town for a week once, and even though they'd call and text daily, she left him notes around the apartment. To make sure he didn't forget her, she claimed. The notes ranged from 'I love it when you hum to me, even though you can't sing' to 'Don't forget to water the plants' to 'Honestly, I miss your leather catsuit'. She signed every note with -Mari x.
When she landed back in Paris, she asked him how many notes he found. He told her seven, and asked why she put an x next to her signature. He knew her signature by now, and the x was new.
"You've always been a clingy kitten. I was trying to sustain you with hugs until I got back."
He swept her up into his arms with a grin on his face. "I prefer the real thing."
She giggled, kissing him on the nose. "Noted."
When they weren’t together, he felt it like a physical ache in his chest. It scared him, how easily she had integrated herself back into his life and how much he wanted her after such a short time. But it also excited him, so when he felt that pull, he leaned into it rather than away. He let it pull him under, deeper and deeper until there was no escape.
Is the core motivation of yelling to be heard, or to be understood? For him, it was the former, but for her, it was the latter.
Maybe that was why it never worked. Why heightened voices always gave way to angry silences, extended far beyond where they should have ended, as if trying to counterbalance the excess with nothingness, the heat with bitterness.
He never won a single argument.
He knows he’s past his prime, but sometimes he thinks that if she had outlived him, she never would have reached hers. She would have kept rising and she would never have stopped until she was a celestial body herself. Maybe that had already happened. But Adrien contents himself with the slow descent. He’ll reach her again eventually.