“Supermodel Adrien Agreste Confesses Love for Superheroine Ladybug!”
The headline stood out on the page, almost mockingly, the tabloid clenched in Marinette’s hands. Her teeth dug into the insides of her cheeks, biting down hard to keep from screaming in the middle of the street.
“Marinette, what’s wrong?” The voice floated up from her purse, barely audible. Large blue eyes peeked out, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever had distressed Marinette so.
“Nothing,” Marinette replied through gritted teeth, her expression an almost terrifying attempt at forcing a smile. Her eyes darted down to the kwami situated inside her purse, and Tikki frowned up at her.
“Not here, Tikki,” the girl hissed insistently. She clutched the tabloid to her chest, and tried to breathe, but it didn’t help. Tikki could hear her muttering to herself, but couldn’t make out the words. Suddenly, she inhaled sharply, then started towards the bakery, walking a little faster than normal. From her vantage inside the purse, Tikki could see that Marinette’s shoulders were hunched, her expression miserable and faintly horrified. Something must be very wrong.
The teenage girl entered the bakery and power-walked her way past her Maman, throwing a frantic greeting over her shoulder when asked if something was wrong. Once inside the house proper, she bolted for her bedroom.
As soon as she was inside, with the door securely closed, she threw herself on her chaise lounge, grabbed a pillow, and shrieked into it.
Tikki flew from her purse, coming to rest on the arm of the chaise, staring at Marinette worriedly. “Marinette, what is going on?” she asked, and received nothing in answer but another shriek.
The kwami glanced at the floor next to them, where the magazine that had prompted Marinette’s freak out had been rather unceremoniously dropped. Tikki flew towards it, gasping when she read the headline.
Well, now it made sense. Sort of. Marinette tended to freak out about anything regarding Adrien. Tikki didn’t quite understand the reaction, though.
She returned to Marinette, settling on the girl’s shoulder and patting her head gently. “Marinette, what are you feeling?” she asked. Again, her only answer was a shriek, though it was fainter this time. The teenager must be running out of steam. Tikki hummed to herself a moment, waiting patiently. Marinette would answer once she’d calmed down enough to do so.
“Me muffs Mabybub,” came an answer finally, Marinette’s face still stuffed into the pillow. A pause, and then she lifted her head slightly, turning to look at Tikki perched on her shoulder. “He loves Ladybug. Why? Why does he have to love her?”
Tikki frowned, head tilting curiously. “But, Marinette, you are Ladybug, isn’t that a good thing?”
“No! No it’s not a good thing! Tikki, I’m not-“ Marinette cut herself off, face dropping back down into the pillow. She took a couple breaths, exhaling slowly. She lifted her head just enough to speak clearly, and said, “I’m not like Ladybug. When I’m me. He loves her, I could never live up to that.”
Tikki sighed; this was a fairly common back and forth between them. “Marinette, you are Ladybug! Ladybug is only the things he loves because you make her those things! You’re every bit as brave and confident and-“
“But I’m not.” Marinette’s voice was defeated. “I’m clumsy, and anxious, and boring, and I talk too much about stuff no one else cares about-“
“Marinette, that’s not true!” Tikki insisted. “You are clumsy, sometimes, but every teenager is! And anxiety is normal, too! But you’re not boring, and your friends love listening to you when you get excited about things!”
Marinette looked unconvinced. “I’m only brave when I’m Ladybug because I have to be. I don’t have a choice. None of it… It’s not me. I fake it.”
Tikki shook her head. “You can’t fake that sort of thing, Marinette! Not really! If you’re brave and confident as Ladybug, it just means you could be all the time! But you let yourself worry and overthink things. You should give yourself more credit.”
The teenager sighed; she was never going to convince Tikki of anything, and Tikki was never going to convince her. They’d talked in circles about this forever. “That’s not even the point,” she said finally.
“Then what is?”
“He’s in love with Ladybug,” Marinette said. “Which means he’d never even look twice at plain Marinette. Even if he would like me, he’d never noticed me to like me!”
Tikki found she didn’t have an answer for that one; it was true. Love could blind a person to anything else.
“I’m right under his nose, Tikki. He loves Ladybug, but he looks at me and he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t know it’s me.” She made a faint grumbling noise. “How can he love someone if he doesn’t even know them when they’re right under his nose?”
“He loves the idea of Ladybug,” Tikki answered, tone wise. “He loves who he sees when you save the city, when you rescue his friends. But it’s just infatuation, Marinette. Teenagers mistake it for love all the time.”
She gave her chosen a pointed look, and pink rose in Marinette’s cheeks. She wasn’t innocent on that front, she knew. She’d spent a long time obsessing over the idea of Adrien she had in her head before she knew enough about him to say she really loved him. Now, she thought she knew him well enough to say that she loved him as much as she possibly could, given their current circumstances. Which were the ones wherein she was too nervous to talk to him, ever.
But, it didn’t really matter, she thought bitterly, if he was in love with Ladybug.
“Even if it’s not real love,” she said, “he thinks it is, right? He thinks he’s in love with her.”
Tikki shrugged. “You didn’t read the article, you know,” she pointed out. “Maybe it’s a misquote. Maybe they’re putting words into his mouth. He might’ve just said he has a crush, or admires Ladybug!”
Marinette eyed the kwami, and then conceded the point. With a small ray of hope, she grabbed the crumpled tabloid up, flipping to the appropriate page.
Ten minutes later, she found herself shrieking into the pillow again, because Adrien Agreste had, in fact, said the words “I’m in love with Ladybug.”
Soothing speculation on the part of Tikki that perhaps he was exaggerating his feelings to try and ward off fangirls was less than successful at making Marinette feel better.