"No, Nino! Stop! Don't touch her… She is… she is… … … mine"
Waking up in a cold sweat for the fifth time that night, his seventh night after the zoo accident, was not fun. Adrien hugged his head with his arms and groaned. He quickly glanced at the clock. 2 am. Exhausting.
"Not again." He rubbed his tired eyes and looked around. The first thing that caught his eye was a grumpy black kwami on a pillow, staring at him angrily, judging him mercilessly, silently demanding him to surrender and finally admit it. Adrien scoffed under his breath and sat up but said nothing. There was nothing logical or rational to say.
"The only one you are lying to is you, kid." Plagg murmured yawning. "Why won't you admit it?"
"There is nothing to admit, Plagg!" Adrien hissed in response. "I love Ladybug!"
"Of course you do!" The kwami smirked. "And that's why you can't sleep for a week now, waking up and screaming at Nino or whoever it was this time to not kiss Marinette!"
Groaning, Adrien fell back into a stack of pillows. He squeezed his eyes closed, praying for at least two hours of an interrupted sleep because, honestly, at this point, he was getting to the end of his rope, exhausted physically and emotionally and he didn't even know why.
The whole situation, really, was completely and utterly ridiculous and so confusing. One day Adrien was helping his best bro confess to a cute girl who sat behind him in school. The next thing he knew, he stopped sleeping that same day because of this strange, recurring dream. The scenarios and people involved were always different. One thing stayed always the same - a boy (at first it was Nino, then Nathaniel, then Theo, then someone he didn't even know) was always flirting with, confessing to and finally kissing Marinette. Seeing that caused Adrien great distress every time.
He was suffering at the thought of someone coming close to her, throwing a few lovesick glances and flirting. He was in agony when that somebody was leaning towards the girl and wistfully looking at her lips. Adrien desperately tried to stop his best friend or that other guy he didn't even know when he pulled Marinette close. He tried so hard yet every time he was late, every time he shouted and cried and was utterly miserable watching them kissing.
Usually, Adrien had five or six of those dreams a night and every time Plagg informed him that the boy struggled and tossed around, that he would start whispering something about them not touching her until it grew into a shout. At that point, Adrien always woke up.
The dreams started the same day Nino tried to confess and just after a T-Rex almost ate his Lady so Adrien wrote it off to the stress of seeing the love of his life being almost killed. Yet he still was puzzled and surprised – he loved Ladybug, why would he have those strange, persistent dreams about Marinette?
If that would stop at dreams only, Adrien would probably have survived this weirdness somehow. Not with his luck. When the morning came and he got to school, the boy discovered that the dreams were only the start and the real struggle was far worse than he'd expected. You see, Adrien soon discovered that he couldn't even be close to the girl without making a complete idiot of himself anymore. Every time Adrien saw Marinette, he wanted nothing less than to grab her and take her away from every male he knew and especially those he didn't.
This strange, powerful desire Adrien couldn't understand at all. When other boys would look at Marinette, his fists would clench despite him trying desperately to control his body. When Nathaniel would speak to her, Adrien could hear himself hiss inside and trying hard not to intervene. Soon, he deemed it to be better if he'd stayed away from Marinette, watching from the distance the reason of his sleepless nights. This ridiculous even by his standard's behavior got to the point where even Nino noticed that something was off.
"Dude? What's wrong with you?" he asked one day when Adrien failed to answer yet another question.
"Nothing, Nino," Adrien replied, his eyes still focused on his target behind the DJ. "Everything is fine."
"Then why are you glaring death at Nath? What did he do to you?" his friend pushed for an explanation.
"You are imagining it, Nino. I barely noticed him."
"Yeah," Nino raised a brow. "And that's why you are speaking through clenched teeth right now, right? Spill, it, Adrien!" Nino friendly fist-bumped his shoulder and winked. "Are you finally into the girl? You've been practically eating her alive with your eyes since the start of the week."
"I am not, Nino!" Adrien hissed again, trying hard to convince both of them. "I like someone else."
"Suit yourself, bro." Nino shrugged. "But if you are interested, Alya told me that she has a thing for you too. Just so you know—" he picked up his bag, getting ready to leave. "—in case you'll change your mind. Now come, Alya wants to have lunch together."
Silently Adrien packed his bag and followed Nino to the door where two girls waited. Alya and her. Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Adrien tensed. It would the first time he would come so close to the girl since the whole ordeal started and he was eager to prove to all of them, Plagg, Nino and himself, that he wasn't into Marinette, that he loved Ladybug and it all was just due to the stress. He could surely eat lunch at the same table and behave as a normal human being.
She has a thing for you, Nino's words surfaced in his head. Adrien stopped. This… This could possibly complicate things a little but he'd deal with it later. For now, he should focus on self-control and behave… If only that guy would stop passing by their table all the time! He definitely does it on purpose! Have you seen the way he looked at Marinette? Adrien shrugged and close his eyes to concentrate. Those sleepless nights were really getting to him. He should ask father to start yoga again and maybe order some relaxing herbal tea.
The first five minutes went by smoothly. Nino and Alya were the main participants in the conversation. Marinette would also speak from time to time while Adrien kept pretty quiet, focusing on his lunch, not looking at her, totally not pushing aside his last dream inside his head where that ugly guy, from an older class who was sitting suspiciously close right now, was all over her. Adrien glared back and forth, stopped, bit his tongue and scolded himself one more time for failing that thing called self-control.
"Adrien, we'll be back, ok?" He heard suddenly. Startled from his train of thoughts, Adrien looked around just in time to see Nino and Alya departing somewhere, leaving him alone with Marinette. His eyes shifted to the girl. She was silent and seemed focused solely on her meal. For a while, they sat in a complete silence. Suddenly Marinette put her fork down and asked quietly: "Adrien, is it true that you were helping Nino at the park to- to confess to me?"
Adrien blinked, bewildered by her unexpected question.
"Um…" he trailed off, a thick blush covering his face. Why was it suddenly so hard to talk to Marinette? "Yes- Is- is that a pro- problem?"
"No, it's fine." Marinette sadly smiled in return. Her eyes changed a little, thought. Moisture gathering at the corners sparkled under the sunlight and something sad appeared just for a second but was quickly squished.
"Thanks for being honest," she added quickly and stood up slowly. "I need to go somewhere before class." Marinette gathered her things quickly. "It was nice talking to you, Adrien. See you later," she smiled one last time and disappeared.
All the time she got ready and every second of her walking away Adrien sat as in a trance. That drowning, painful feeling from his dreams hit full force for no reason and left the boy more confused than ever. Why? He didn't say anything wrong… He loved Ladybug and Marinette was just a friend, a friend who he now knew liked him and to whom he just admitted that he tried to set her up with his friend. In other words to whom he just implied that he didn't like her and that was why he was trying to set her up with someone else.
The excruciating realization, a realization Adrien didn't need or want, shot up through his whole body and soul.
"No," he whispered to himself. "I can't have feelings for both of them. No way. I love Ladybug! I love Ladybug. I love Ladybug…"
Back at his locker, falling off his feet from exhaustion, trying hard to stay awake and sane, Adrien looked wistfully at Plagg, soundly catching up on his sleep in his bag.
"I wish for once," he murmured in a half voice. "I would care more for cheese than girls, Plagg. It's draining!"
The kwami turned around and yawned. "Why wouldn't you just talk to her?"
"And say what?" Adrien sighed. "I'm sorry, Marinette, but can you, please, stay away from my dreams so I could function properly and maybe get ahold of my feelings and sanity? What do you expect me to say, Plagg?" his voice got really quiet. "I just plainly hinted that I don't like her… I can't possibly tell her now that I can't stand it when other boys are looking at her and yet I still love Ladybug and have no idea what is happening with me…"
"It's called jealousy, kid," Plagg huffed.
"I know what it is called, Plagg. I am not an idiot," the boy whispered sadly.
"What I don't know is why I am jealous? She is my friend. I love Ladybug."
"Does Ladybug love you?"
Adrien paused not only his moves but his thoughts as well. "What?"
"You are so hang up on Ladybug, kid, but does she love you?"
Their small talk was interrupted by other students entering the locker room, amongst them pale-faced Marinette whose eyes didn't sparkle anymore, they turned a little reddish. Adrien looked at her and felt his stomach clench. She cried. Marinette cried because of him. He tried to push a lump in his throat down unsuccessfully.
Maybe he should talk to her, Adrien thought. Just to explain that he loved someone else and he wished that it would be different, but it was something beyond his control. Maybe he should admit that sometimes he wished he would love someone just as nice and cute as Marinette and that he yearned to love someone who would love him back. Maybe he could make her feel a little better if they talked. Not that he would probably ever feel better about the whole thing himself.
"Hey, Marinette." Adrien's thoughts were interrupted by Nathaniel's voice.
"Do you remember that comic I am drawing right now?" His eyes fell on a redhead standing just a few steps away right in front of Marinette. "I thought maybe you can help me with it?" Nathaniel shyly asked. "You have the most awesome ideas so I thought maybe we can meet after school at a café and-"
Before Adrien could realize what he was doing he was standing in front of the two startled teenagers.
"I need to talk to you, Marinette," he declared. "Right now. Do you mind Nathaniel?"
Not really waiting for either of their responses, Adrien took Marinette's hand in his and quickly led her away, searching for an empty room while being not even sure what he was going to say once they would arrive. Well, as long as she wasn't around Nathaniel to agree to that date…
The first few rooms were all occupied and Adrien was getting extremely anxious and frustrated. Finally, he pulled confused Marinette after himself into an empty office somewhere on a second floor but before he could even fully close the door, two voices sounded nearby, indicating that soon they wouldn't be alone anymore again.
"Oh, come on!" he exclaimed in exasperation. He needed to get Marinette away from them. Now.
In a split moment, Chat Noir was already running across the rooftop with shocked and speechless Marinette in his arms to the nearby bakery. Soon he jumped on the roof, put still stunned girl on her feet and was immediately shoved down to her room. Inside Marinette just continued to silently stare at him while he let his transformation down.
"I'm pretty sure that this wasn't the best idea I've ever had," Adrien mumbled, hiding his eyes away. "And I am pretty sure Ladybug will kill me for that, but-" Adrien paused trying to find the right words to say and to explain but couldn't. He tried harder, his mouth opening then closing again, until exhausted, sleep-deprived and simply tired of this, his body just gave in and he exclaimed: "Make it stop, Marinette! Please, just make it stop! I can't go on like this anymore."
"Make stop what?" Marinette was now not only shocked but also confused. "I haven't done anything to you, Adrien, as far as I know."
"Stop confusing me, please," Adrien pleaded. "I love Ladybug. I can't love two people at the same time-"
"Oh, come on, Adrien!" An arrogant voice interrupted Adrien's desperate pleas. "I can't take it anymore! Just tell her the truth!" A black blur flew up to his face, his every sentence complimented by a bop to Adrien's nose. "Tell her that you didn't sleep for a week because everyone kisses her in your dreams but you! Tell her that you are jealous of every boy in a ten-meter radius of her and that you just blew your secret identity only so Nathaniel won't invite her on a date! Just tell her you love her!"
"Plagg!" Adrien glared at the kwami and started looking around for a place to hide when he heard a quiet voice.
"Is that true, Adrien?"
His eyes fell to the floor as he whispered: "Yes, I am sorry…"
Marinette stepped closer. "Then why were you trying to set me up with Nino?"
"At that point, I didn't realize I felt this way about you," Adrien finally looked at Marinette. "I always thought I loved Ladybug and honestly this is killing me because I still love her- and- and- you too. This is so crazy and confusing!"
The girl moved even closer. "Are you sure about me? Maybe it's just a fluke and it'll pass. Ladybug is so much cooler…"
This time it was Adrien who stepped towards her.
"I am not sure of anything right now, Marinette," he responded. "If I would've been sure, I would've acted accordingly but I am utterly and hopelessly confused. All I know is that there are two girls in my heart – one amazing Lady who I've loved for a while and the other incredible Princess whom I never want to let go. I am an idiot!" He closed his eyes and whined. "How can this be happening? I am so sorry Marinette. I've never wanted to hurt you."
She closed the last remaining space between them.
"You don't have to be sorry, Adrien. That's me who should be sorry. That's me who made you this confused."
"Oh no! No!" Adrien protested. "You did nothing, Marinette…"
She silenced him with a shy, tender kiss on his lips causing them both to blush immediately. It lasted a few seconds only but the softness and the warmth of her touch Adrien still felt long after she pulled back.
Then Marinette opened her purse.
"I'd like you to meet someone, Chat. Say hello to Tikki."
A red kwami with black dots flew out, waving shyly at him. She quickly introduced herself and zipped away to find Plagg. Red, polka dotted kwami, Ladybug kwami…
Adrien's eyes grew wide just for a split second before he caught Marinette in his arms with a wide grin playing on his lips.
"May I finally kiss you, Marinette?"
The girl smiled back at him cheekily. "You may, kitty."