This is a post episode reaction fic. I know we were all a little confused as to the chronology of this episode, but I'm assuming it is correctly placed in the French broadcast for the purposes of this fic.
'What do you mean you're 'totally over Marinette'?'
When Adrien had made it home, transformation dissolving as he fell through the window into his bedroom, he had spent a long time standing under the hot spray of water in his shower-his eyes tightly shut and forehead pressed against the tiles and trying to calm a still racing heart and a rolling stomach whilst purging the image of Ladybug disappearing into the jaws of a dinosaur-a freaking dinosaur-out of his mind.
So it had been later than he had expected when he had called to check up on Nino. Normally he would try and get back in contact with his friend as soon as he could, but sometimes the fight against an akuma would linger in his head and he needed to clear his thoughts and emotions before facing people as Adrien, again. He'd known that Nino and the rest of his classmates wouldn't be hurt, thanks to Ladybug's miraculous power, but the afternoon hadn't exactly been going to plan when a panther had run into their paths and derailed all attempts to confess Nino's feelings, so Adrien was sure that they would want to figure out a new way to get Marinette's attention.
But, still, it hadn't even been five hours since Nino had been sharing a bench with the girl he was crushing on and struggling to speak complete sentences, even when Adrien was feeding them to him, so what on earth had happened since then?
'Dude, it's not like I don't like her anymore,' Nino was quick to respond, 'I mean, she's still really cute and sweet and nice and anyone would be totally lucky to date her,'
'Are you sure you're over her?' Adrien couldn't help interrupting him, cutting into Nino's rather emphatic string of compliments with an amused smile on his face.
'It's just...look, do you know that feeling you get when you look at someone and you can feel your heart getting fast and your throat gets tight and you just think 'wow, you're amazing'?'
Adrien could think of a hundred different moments of blue eyes behind a red mask making his breath cut short and a teasing quip making his pulse race and he made an affirmative noise that urged Nino to continue.
'Marinette is so sweet and pretty that I'm pretty sure every person in the school has had a moment like that around her. Hell, even Chloé has probably thought twice about tormenting her on some days.'
Adrien couldn't help but laugh at that thought. It was no secret that Chloé seemed to target Marinette more than any other classmate and the thought of her not being immune to Marinette's charms was amusing. And Nino had a point. He thought back to the gaming tournament and how he had been practicing with Marinette in her room. He thought about brushing his hand against hers and feeling sparks run up his arm. He thought about how bright and happy she had been whenever she won a game and how her enthusiasm put a smile on his face. And, most of all, he thought about how soft and sweet her smile had been when she had offered her lucky charm to him, and how, for a moment, he'd thought that her eyes were just as blue as his Lady's...he'd been pleased when her parents had interrupted them because the thought had felt like a betrayal. Even if he couldn't resist reaching into his pocket and running his fingers along the beads of the bracelet that was safely tucked away.
'So, what changed?' Adrien asked him, 'I doubt she's stopped being sweet and pretty in the last few hours.'
Nino made a soft sigh on the other end of the phone, and Adrien's intrigue peaked.
'Ladybug locked me in a panther cage.'
Adrien's thoughts screeched to a halt before a chant built up in his mind, 'Oh, god, please don't say you're crushing on Ladybug...please please please...'
'Me and Alya were stuck in there for a couple hours and, dude, that feeling I said?' Adrien hummed down the phone, his heart rate relaxing as his suspicions shifted, 'I got that feeling when Alya was talking about video editing.'
'Yeah, I know, right?' Nino laughed down the phone and Adrien couldn't help but smile at how pleased Nino sounded. 'I mean, we were stuck in a cage and it's not like I wanted to talk about the fact that I'd just lied to her best friend about having a crush on her to get out of confessing I had a crush on her best friend.'
'That sentence sounded weird.' Adrien couldn't help but comment, amused at the direction the conversation appeared to be heading.
'Ha ha. But, yeah, talking about Ladybug and the Ladyblog seemed like a safer conversation. And, dude, she was talking about the videos she uploads and how people share their videos with her and she cuts them all together to create better footage and how she wishes she was better at sound editing because sometimes she wants to cut some of the crowd noise out and, man, her eyes have got these really pretty speckles of gold in them.'
The sudden shift from editing to Alya's eyes threw Adrien out of the conversation for a moment.
'Again, video editing? How do you get from video editing to 'her eyes sparkle'.'
'Shut up!' Nino responded to his gentle tease, 'It's just, you know how much she gets into the Ladyblog and she really lights up when she talks about it. And she obviously loves filming Ladybug and Cat Noir and then sharing those videos.' Adrien couldn't help but feel a little glimmer of pride at the positive attention Alya gave Cat Noir, even if, like most of Paris, the main focus was on his partner. After all, it's not like he didn't understand how easy it was to love Ladybug. 'But when she was talking about editing the sound I thought 'I can help her with that'. And when I offered to teach her how to filter out the crowd noises she just looked so happy and…'
'And?' Adrien prompted, when Nino trailed off.
'And I thought, 'I could listen to you talk about this forever' and felt like I would do anything to keep her looking that happy.' Nino's voice had gone soft and Adrien realised that he sounded a little lovestruck.
Whilst Adrien was glad that Nino sounded so happy talking about Alya, he couldn't help but be confused about the crush he'd had on Marinette. His own feelings for Ladybug were so strong he couldn't imagine them fading just because another girl caught his attention.
'And you didn't feel like that about Marinette?'
There was a pause and Adrien could almost hear Nino putting his words together.
'Like I said, Marinette is great. I do still like her a lot and I want to be friends with her. But I was thinking that we don't really share all that many interests. I mean, I'm awful at gaming and she's always really nice and polite about my music but she obviously doesn't quite get it. And do you remember when she was talking between classes the other day about making a new skirt?' Adrien had been trying to catch up on some history homework, but he could remember looking back every so often and smiling at how Marinette chatted happily to Alya about a sewing project of some kind and how he'd noticed Nino once again staring at her. 'She was talking about fabric blends and how differently they drape and how she would need to cut on the bias...dude, I don't even know what the bias is!'
'It means it's cut at an angle to the weave of the fabric and allows for more stretch.' Adrien instantly responded, years of exposure to the fashion industry burned into his brain.
'...Yeah, okay. Anyway, my point is that I would obviously listen to Marinette talk about making clothes and she would obviously listen to my music, even if neither of us really get it. Because that is what friends do. But when Alya was talking about her videos I realised that there was something there that we could share and I really really wanted to share that with her. And it's not like I've never thought Alya was pretty before or that she wasn't cool, because she obviously is. But we've known each other for so long that I guess I'd just pushed it back.'
'Until her eyes got all sparkly?' Adrien couldn't help but tease him again.
'Ugh, I'm not talking about this with you anymore.'
'No! No! Tell me more about how you want to make beautiful videos with Alya!'
'Dude, shut up!'
Adrien laughed and he heard Nino echo his laughter down the phone.
'So, are you and Alya dating, then? Or do I need to help you ask her out, too?'
'Well…not quite? It's more of a 'we'll hang out some more and see how it goes' sort of thing?' Nino didn't sound certain and Adrien could feel his eyebrows furrow at how unsure he sounded. 'I mean, like I said, me and Alya have known each other for ages and we don't want to ruin anything. To be honest, I think she's a little confused whether she likes me like that or not.'
Adrien couldn't help but sympathise with Nino, his own heart constantly buoying up and down with Ladybug's alternate flirtations and discouragement. He respected the fact that Ladybug might not love him in return, but the hope he got everytime she threw him a coy smile instead of an exasperated glance confused him greatly. But at least Nino sounded like he understood Alya's predicament and was willing to wait it out.
'And what about Marinette? I mean, I don't think she knew you liked her, but she's not upset that you're not interested in her anymore?'
'Heh, no, she didn't have a clue until I told her.'
'You told her?'
'Yeah, me and Alya went to see her after we left the zoo. Told her that I'd been crushing on her but we were cool, now. Besides, she likes someone else, anyway.'
'Really?' Adrien's heart clenched for a moment and he didn't know why. 'Who?' Adrien tried to think through the kids in their class and see if he could picture who Marinette was interested in, but his mind came to a blank. Everyone knew that Nathanaël had been interested in her, but the fact that his crush had been a factor into him being akumatised made Adrien want to keep Marinette safely tucked away from him. At least she didn't seem to return his feelings.
'Crap, dude, I didn't say anything!' Nino's voice was panicked as he tried to backtrack, 'I don't think she wanted me to know and Alya shouldn't have let it slip. And I don't know who, okay!'
Adrien wasn't convinced, but he respected that Nino wanted to keep it a secret. It wasn't any of his business, even if the tentative friendship he'd been trying to build with Marinette made him want to make sure the person she was interested in was good enough for her. At least he'd trusted Nino to treat her well.
'Okay. I hope it works out for her.'
'Yeah, me too.' Nino was emphatic in his agreement. 'Anyway, I'm just glad that I can go back to having actual conversations with her.'
'Lucky for some.' Adrien couldn't help but allow a little frustration leak out into his words. 'I can't seem to get her to talk to me unless she absolutely has to. At least she wants to be friends with you.'
'What, no, dude, that's not…' Nino's stuttered response didn't help.
'It's not like I didn't want to help her with her Uncle. And training for the gaming tournament was fun.' Adrien had jumped at both opportunities to spend time with Marinette. She was always so shy and closed off around him and he just wanted to get the chance to be friends with the girl he saw talking to Alya or standing up to Chloé. 'But I just wish she actually wanted to spend time with me.'
'Dude, I promise you that she wants to be friends with you, too.' Nino sounded so sure, and his conviction put his mind at ease, a little. 'It's just…I hope it works out for you.'
The phrasing echoed Adrien's earlier statement and the amusement in Nino's voice confused Adrien, but he brushed it aside when he heard Plagg start to stir from where he was asleep on his desk, curled into the blue scarf he'd received for his birthday. He wasn't sure why Plagg seemed to love the scarf, so much so that Adrien never got a chance to wear it, but Plagg claimed that it smelled familiar and like home. Adrien just thought it smelled like vanilla.
'Sorry, Nino, I've got to go.' Adrien knew that demands for cheese would come soon, his kwami still recovering energy from the earlier transformation. 'I need to go over my schedule for tomorrow.'
'Man, you work too hard.' Nino always sounded worried about his work schedule, and it always made Adrien feel good about the fact that he had a friend that cared so much. He tried not to feel too guilty over the little white lie he'd just told, to protect his secret. 'Hey, let me know if there is a break in your weekend. Maybe we can bring you some cookies and work on making Marinette be friends with you!'
'You had me at cookies! But I'll let you know.' As they hung up, Adrien smiled at the thought of his friend trying to help him with Marinette. It was almost like a reversal of their situation from earlier, except, obviously he was in love with Ladybug so it's not like he had a crush on Marinette or anything.
He couldn't help but think that that, too, felt like a little white lie.
As far as I'm concerned, Adrien is so in love with Ladybug he has no idea what he feels for Marinette. Similar to Marinette being so in love with Adrien she doesn't know how to deal with Cat Noir.
Also, I get the feeling that Nino and Alya were a lot more tentative than most people assume. The end card was Marinette's imagination and the hedging in Nino and Alya's conversation seemed to be more about what they discussed regarding Marinette's feelings for that person Alya totally didn't tell Nino about (liar liar pants on fire).
Crossposted to AO3 where it was published first. Will probably be uploaded directly to my tumblr, too.