A/N: Well, first off I apologize for not having this out sooner. I got sick on Thursday and went to bed at 8:30 like an old lady. Then on Friday when I meant to finish it, I was babysitting. Anyways! Here's the last part and yes, I really do mean that this is the last part. What happens afterwards just basically follows the original episode's storyline. Kim is an idiot, Animan chases him, Chat Noir and Ladybug go after him, and Ladybug nearly gets eaten by a T-rex. No real need to go farther than what's already here! :)
"We'll be right here the entire time." Adrien told him as he tapped the side of Nathanael's head. There was a bluetooth headset clipped to his ear. Nathanael touched the headset himself when Adrien pulled his hand away. There was one in Adrien's ear too as well as a pair of binoculars in his hand in preparation for this crazy mission that Nathanael was about to embark on.
"Are you sure about this? I mean this seems a bit… dumb." he pointed out. "What if Marinette notices that I'm wearing a headset? What am I going to tell her?"
"Don't worry about it. Your hair will cover it dude." Nino assured him. Nathanael grimaced a little as Nino ruffled his hair. Yes, his hair pretty much covered the device but this date was already off to a rocky start as it was and Marinette wasn't even here yet. He was lucky that Alya had called Nino a few hours after agreeing to go to the zoo to tell him that she had to babysit her sisters. He had no idea how Adrien was even going to convince Alya to back out in the first place. Alya backing out had seemed like a miracle. Nathanael pulled his hair back down over his ear subconsciously.
"You can't keep touching it though. It will draw attention to it." Adrien reminded him for like the millionth time. Nathanael snapped his hand away from his head. "Nino and I will tell you exactly what to say. All you have to do is just repeat it."
All he had to do was repeat it? Adrien said it like it was so simple. Okay, maybe it was easy for him. There had been a reason Nathanael had originally asked for his help. Adrien's confidence was always overflowing. Nathanael had a feeling that Adrien never stuttered around the girl that he liked. Mr. Perfect Model could probably go on date after date and still look so suave and in control.
Nathanael shook it off. Adrien was helping him. He had no reason to be jealous.
Nino grabbed his shoulder and pulled him down behind the bushes. "Marinette just got here."
Marinette was standing in front of the large animal statue that sat in front of the zoo. She bounced on the balls of her feet as she peered around the area. Nathanael wrung his hands. Suddenly they were incredibly sweaty. Marinette was wearing her hair loose. It was blowing gently in the breeze around her face like a halo. Nathanael found it hard to breathe. "She looks so pretty." he whispered as he stared at her with wide eyes.
"You ready to do this?" Adrien asked as he nudged Nathanael with his elbow.
"No." The answer came out as a squeak.
"Confidence Nathanael! Just have confidence. All you want to do is have a good time with Marinette today." Adrien said firmly.
"Just relax and don't worry about what you're doing. Go with the flow and see where things go." Nino added.
Nathanael nodded along stiffly, "Confident, I can try that."
"Exactly! That's the spirit. We'll be right here the entire time. Just like we promised."
"Okay," murmured Nathanael.
"Now get out there and go get your lady!" Adrien cried and then shoved.
Nathanael yelped as he came stumbling out of the bushes. He nearly fell flat on his face and only managed to catch himself by the skin of his teeth. Adrien and Nino looked completely unphased by the dirty look he shot them over his shoulder. However, they did wave him forward towards Marinette. "Okay, I can do this. I can do this. Walk over to her and say hi. Walk over and say hi. I can do this."
"Ahah!" Nathanael jerked his head away, face contorting into something he was glad Marinette couldn't see. It took every ounce of his self control not to pull the headset off and throw it back at Adrien Agreste's perfect face. "Feedback?" he hissed.
"This is a test. Test. Test!" Nino's voice came through his headset. Seriously?
"Can you hear us?" Adrien asked.
"I don't know I think the feedback might have made me go deaf." grumbled Nathanael. He was still fighting the urge to take the headset off and stick his finger in his offended ear. Like that would've been enough to clear the ringing in his ear.
"Sorry about that. Won't happen again." Adrien told him. He sounded distinctly unaffected. "Now stop walking so stiffly. You look like you were on your way to an execution not a date."
"Shoulders back. Stand up tall. Eyes forward. Relaxed steps." Adrien shot at him in rapid fire suggestion.
"R… right." stammered Nathanael.
"Are you smiling? You need to smile." Nino told him. Once more the feedback started to whine in his ear.
Nathanael grit his teeth in what he hoped was less grimace and more smile. Oh dear God. He really hoped that it wouldn't send Marinette running for the hills. Mechanically, Nathanael lengthened his stride. His eyes were set on Marinette. She was still looking around and twisting at her hair. Why were his palms so sweaty? How was he even going to shake her hand like this? Nathanael rubbed his hand against his pants desperately. He was so close and now as if to make everything even better he couldn't breathe. It was like his lungs had collapsed in his chest. This was never going to work.
Shoot! He was feet away from her now. There was no going back. Cold dread poured through him. He should say something to get Marinette's attention. She was facing the completely wrong way. "M… Mar…" he started, raising his shaking hand into the air.
Marinette spun around. Her eyes were wide. "Oh! Nathanael!" she smiled.
And just like some horrible sort of deja vu, Nathanael's brain stopped working. His tongue seemed to have disappeared out of his mouth! Marinette was staring at him. She totally expected him to say something. Only he had no freaking idea what to say! He couldn't even think of a single thing to say to her.
"Say 'hello' to her." Adrien's voice buzzed in his ear. It was like a divine message.
"Bo… bonjour Marinette." Nathanael said.
"Okay, not so bad. Little quiet but you got the words out all the same." he heard Nino tell him supportively.
"Bonjour Nathanael." Marinette replied sweetly. "How are you today?"
"'I'm doing well.' Say it." prompted Adrien.
"F… fine." he parroted back to Marinette.
"Alright, less monosyllabic responses. It's Marinette. She's super sweet. It's not like she's going to turn around and bite you." Adrien sighed. "Ask her how she's doing today."
"How, how are you today?" he asked with that same stiff, thin lipped smile that he'd approached her with. Thank goodness it didn't look like it was scaring her. Though, it almost looked as though Marinette was slightly distracted. She kept turning her head to the side and running her hand through the one side of her hair. She usually didn't do that. Nathanael brushed it off. It didn't matter.
"I'm fine." she laughed, voice light and airy. Then she suddenly perked up, took a step back, spread her arms wide, and smiled at him. "Hey do me a favor. How do I look? Is my outfit okay?"
"Uh." His brain clicked off again. Marinette did a little spin. The floaty flower skirt she was wearing danced around her legs as she moved. Her white peasant blouse was just as floaty as her three-quarter sleeves swayed with the movement. Nathanael caught a whiff of something light and sweet in the air as she spun. Powdery with a hint of strawberries and roses. Perfume. She was wearing perfume.
"Tell her yes! Tell her yes!" Adrien was practically screaming in his ear.
"I wish I'd brought my sketchbook but then again I'm not a good enough artist to do you justice." Nathanael blurted out.
And then he realized what he'd said exactly. Crap.
Heat flooded into his face. There was no way that he wasn't the same shade of red as his hair! Double crap.
Somebody whistled in his ear. "That was super smooth bro."
"Way to not be monosyllabic!" Adrien praised him. Yeah. It was just too bad that Nathanael really just wanted to go curl up under a rock and die. That is until he heard Marinette laugh. No really! She laughed and not in the way of 'haha, Nathanael said something stupid' either.
"You're so sweet Nathanael." she told him. She paused a moment, once more turning her head to the side. Then she pressed her lips together and gave him a shy little look. "So, um… Where is Adrien and Nino? Will they be here soon?"
"I'm sick! Tell her I'm sick!" Nino said quickly.
"Nino is actually sick." Nathanael repeated. He could hear Adrien congratulating his friend for coming up with such a slick cover story.
Marinette frowned. "Poor Nino. I hate being sick. I hope he feels better soon."
"Y… yeah, I'm sure he'll be better soon." he assured her.
"And Adrien?" Marinette twisted to look behind him in the direction that he'd come from.
"Say that you guys will be better off without me." Adrien prompted, "Tell her that you wanted to spend time alone with her."
"I… uh…" he couldn't say that! What was Adrien thinking? Marinette stared at him, waiting patiently for him to answer. Adrien was in his ear and urging him to tell her that he'd wanted to spend the afternoon alone with her. Like it was so simple. "Well, you see the truth is um, I uh… I uh…"
Marinette smiled up at him.
"Adrien will be here soon!" he blurted out.
"No I won't!"
Marinette's shoulders relaxed.
Nathanael nodded to Marinette reassuringly as Adrien continued to squawk in his ear. "Why'd you tell her that?"
"We should probably wait for him to get here then." Marinette suggested. She stepped backwards towards the picnic bench that sat in front of the statue.
"No don't do that! I'm not going to show up!" Adrien reminded him in exasperation.
"We… we could," Nathanael acknowledged. There was a groan from Adrien and Nino on the other end of the headset. "But I was thinking that maybe we could, you know, go in and walk around. Just for a bit… until Adrien gets here. If you wanted to that is."
Nathanael barely got the words out. He might as well have been talking with a mouth full of cotton. "I don't want to ditch Adrien…" Marinette said quietly as she lowered her eyes to the ground.
"It… uh, wouldn't be ditching. We'd only be waiting for him. Inside the zoo. Not out here."
"I guess that would be okay." Marinette replied slowly as if she were clearly turning it over in her mind. She gave another look over his shoulder before giving a nod. "He's not going to be much longer I suppose and we both have his cell phone number."
Nathanael scrabbled at the opportunity he'd been given. "Exactly, I'll uh… I'll text him so that we know we're waiting inside for him. Yeah that will work."
"Okay, not a bad recovery." The exasperation in Adrien's voice was still tangible though not as pronounced.
"You, you don't think he'll be upset that we went in without him do you?" Marinette leaned in closer to him and he got a strong whiff of her perfume. A fog clouded over his mind. It definitely didn't help that Marinette had reached forward to tug on his jacket. Oh boy.
"N… no definitely n… not."
"Dude I'm starting to think that you don't really need us at all." whistled Nino in his ear.
"Nathanael snap out of it and get going!" Adrien told him. Nathanael gave a jerk. Marinette was still looking between the zoo's entrance and the pathway. "Get her attention and then offer her your arm. Girls love it when you treat them like they're princesses. It's gentlemanly!"
Nathanael raised his hand into the air, hovering his finger over Marinette's shoulder tentatively. It really sucked that he couldn't stop his hand from shaking. And the sweat! He was convinced that he was going to die if she could feel just how sweaty his hand was through her shirt. Marinette rocked back on her heels. Her shoulder hit his hand of its own accord. Nathanael's blush shot into his face as Marinette turned around. He wasn't exactly sure how he was going to offer her his arm if he was shaking so badly. "Uh are… are you, um," Nathanael stammered.
"Smile!" called Nino.
"Are you ready to go in?" asked Nathanael as his jaw locked up in a tight smile.
"Okay," Marinette nodded. Nathanael motioned ahead of him.
As she headed towards the entrance the headset crackled to life again. "The arm! You gotta do the arm thing!" Adrien said quickly.
"I can't do the arm thing. I think it will fall off!" he hissed.
"Nathanael?" Marinette called after him.
"C… coming!" he yelped as he spun around and hurried to her side.
"Are you feeling alright Nathanael? You look a little red in the face. Do you think you're getting sunburnt?"
Nathanael laughed nervously, "Yeah! I'm fine! Totally fine!"
They made it into the zoo with little more incident than what he was already dealing with. The usual stalling brain, sweaty palms, and shaking hands entire deal. Marinette asked at one point if he'd texted Adrien to which he'd stumbled through the lie that he had. He really had no idea what to do with his hands. Nathanael was so used to having his sketchbook. It gave him something to do with his hands. Without it, he was completely at a loss at what to do with his hands. "Let Marinette lead the way to start off with."
"Where did you want to go first?" Nathanael fiddled with his hands. Once more the desire to run his hand over the headset was hard to ignore.
"How about this way?" Marinette pointed in the direction of some brightly colored birds. All he could do was follow behind her. "We should stick close to the entrance though, that way when Adrien gets here we aren't too far away."
"You need to talk to her." Adrien said.
"About what?" he mumbled as he ducked his head and hid his mouth from Marinette.
"Anything. What's she's seen in the movie theaters lately. What designs she's working on. How did she do on her math test last week. Literally anything. You have to talk to her."
"And smile!" Nino added.
Okay, that was getting kind of annoying now. However, Adrien had a point. He needed to talk to Marinette. It would just work out a lot better if he didn't trip over his tongue every time Marinette looked his way. There was no way that he was going to be able to do this without looking like a giant fool.
"Nathanael." Marinette's hand closed around his wrist. He nearly jumped out of his skin. "Are you sure you're feeling okay? You look really flushed and uh… kinda clammy."
She dropped her hand from his wrist and kind of shook it a little bit. Great! She'd realized he was sweating. As Marinette turned her head to the side there was a distinct look of indignation on her face. It was all over for him.
Then Marinette laid her hand flat against his forehead, her face screwed up in concentration. Nathanael nearly fell down in shock. He was sweaty, openly sweaty, and she was willingly touching him. "Hm, you don't feel warm. Do you want to sit down though or maybe get some water."
"No, you don't want water and you don't need to sit down. That is, I guess, you need to though." Adrien told him.
"I'm fine." answered Nathanael, shaking his head. It was for both Adrien and Marinette. She pulled her hand away and gave him a careful look.
"Keep going! You're doing really well. Say 'thank you for your concern.'"
"Thanks for being concerned."
Marinette giggled, "Of course. You're my friend Nathanael."
"Now's your chance Nathanael!" Adrien said. It was pretty evident what he meant exactly. What with Marinette still standing so close to him with her hand on him. Already he could feel the blush creeping into his face. "You should tell her that you really like her."
"Um I don't think he should just blurt something like that out…" Nino started but there was some sound on the other end of the headset. It sounded distinctly like someone hitting the ground rather hard. Nathanael kind of had to agree with Nino.
"Okay, listen just say what I say." Adrien directed him. Marinette was still busy checking to see if he had a fever. The look on her face seemed to indicate that she was having some sort of internal debate over whether or not her temperature taking skills were accurate. "First take her hand off of your forehead and hold it."
Mechanically, Nathanael reached up and took Marinette's hand away from his head. A brief flicker of confusion ran across her face. For an even smaller fraction of a second, there was a look of irritation. Then it was like a light clicked on and she pulled her hand away abruptly. "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to invade your personal space." she apologized, taking a half step away from him.
Well this felt like he went back a few steps.
"Relax, not a big deal. We can roll with this." Adrien said simply. "Tell her not to worry about getting into your personal space."
"I, uh, it's not that big of a deal you know." Nathanael told her weakly. Marinette stared at him. More confusion! Not good! Definitely not good! "Um with the personal space. It wasn't. I mean I don't mind if you don't mind and Rose is constantly touching me so it isn't like I'm not used to touchy feely type things. Rose is the queen of hugs and hanging off of people. Between Juleka and I we think she could turn herself into a hammock."
"Slow down!" Adrien and Nino called to him together. There was another whine of feedback. Nathanael was already wincing though so it didn't really matter that much. Wow, had Marinette even understood a single word he'd said. He was going to have to guess no. That was when she laughed again.
"Rose is all about the hugs you're right." Marinette agreed with him. "She's always been like that."
"Since we were seven or eight. I think it's gotten worse since she's started dating Juleka." a grin pulled at the corner of his mouth before he'd realized what he said. "D… don't tell her I said that. She'll stop hugging me."
Marinette winked conspiratorially, "Your secret's safe with me."
"You're doing great!" Adrien's excitement was palpable even through the brief feedback screech. "Keep talking and see if you can get back around to the subject of you and Marinette."
"Don't forget to smile."
"I'm so glad that those two are finally together. They just make each other happier if it's even possible." Marinette told him as she started drifting away towards an exhibit. Nathanael chased after her quickly.
"They're really happy. Rose is about the only person I know who can make Juleka smile from ear to ear." Nathanael agreed. He was making a pointed effort to not look at her arm. The urge to reach out to grab it was hard to ignore. It was easier to tame once he remembered how mortified he'd be once Marinette realized what he was doing.
"I think everyone should have someone that their happy being around and can make them smile like that. It's so important that you have people you love and care for in your life. It makes everything brighter you know."
Marinette leaned against the railing of the zebra exhibit. She tapped her shoe against the pavement as her expression turned pensive. Tentatively, Nathanael came to stand beside her. He was standing a safe couple of feet away from her but he was so incredibly aware of just how close she was. Every time she moved her skirt rustled and each time the breeze blew past them it caught her perfume. It made his stomach twist into even tighter knots.
"Agree with her. This is your chance to turn the conversation back in your direction." Adrien repeated.
"I… uh, I think you're right." Nathanael stammered. Marinette turned to look at him curiously. One of her eyebrows raised in question. "Ah, I mean about the… uh, having someone that makes you happy. You know like Rosie and Jules. Actually I know you're right. It's like whenever you're around them the day is infinitely better even if you were having an absolutely horrible day five minutes before."
"Dude, you're babbling." Nino muttered into the headset.
Nathanael clamped his mouth shut. He should've known better than to open his mouth in front of Marinette. Had he not just stuck his foot in his mouth with that wonderful 'how do I look' incident. All he ever did was say stupid things in front of Marinette. How had he even gotten her to agree to a date with him when he was the Evillustrator? There was no way that even when possessed he'd been able to string together words to form coherent, not stupid sounding sentences.
"Exactly!" exclaimed Marinette, loud enough to startle the zebras and earn some dark looks from other zoo goers. She slapped her hand down on the railing hard enough to make herself wince and shake out her hand. Wait a minute! She was agreeing with him?
"You don't think what I said was stupid?" he gaped at her.
"Eh…" Nino said.
"No! Not at all!" Adrien insisted right as Marinette shook her head vehemently and said, "Of course not!"
"Sometimes just being in the same room with them is all you need. Watching them smile and laugh can be enough to make you smile y'know?" Marinette smiled at him.
"Do I ever." he said, a warm feeling spreading through him. It ws definitely different than the warmth that rushed to his face when he blushed. This feeling was more like the one he got when he sketched in the sun. Comfortable, relaxing, andd soothing. Marinette was as warm as the sun. A small smile creeped on to his face.
"So who it?" Marinette asked suddenly.
The wheels in his head came to a screeching halt. "What?" was Nathanael's incredibly stupid response.
"The person you like? Who is it?" she asked. Such a simple pair of sentences but they might as well have been a couple of ropes strangling him.
"This is your chance Nathanael!" Adrien said. This really didn't feel like the right time.
"So?" Marinette asked again. Her voice was kind and gentle but the way she was bouncing on the balls of her feet gave away just how eager she was for Nathanael to tell her. All the more reason he could not tell her. "Do I know them? Do they know you like them?"
Judging from the conversation they were having the answer was a big fat no. Nathanael kept his mouth firmly clenched shut and shook his head. It seemed so much safer than any words that might have or might not have come out of his mouth.
Marinette reached out and touched his arm reassuringly. "Have you told them that you like them yet?"
"Tell her Nathanael!" Adrien urged him.
"I… I can't." Nathanael just barely choked the words out. On the other end of the headset he could literally hear Adrien and Nino dying. Marinette pulled her arm away from him. There was a distinct look of sympathy on her face. He had no clue who he'd meant that answer for.
"Why not?" Marinette questioned, frowning.
That was a great question. Nathanael couldn't look her in the eyes. He went to run his hand through his hair but stopped right in time to remember the headset and scratched the back of his neck instead. He gave a shrug. "She's beautiful. She's smart. She's confident and creative. She knows what she wants and she throws herself one hundred percent into everything that she does. I can't even begin to compare. I'm just… I'm just me. Plain, boring Nathanael who can barely hold a conversation without squeaking and has no idea what to do with his hands if he doesn't have a sketchbook in them."
"Oh Nathanael," whispered Marinette.
"That isn't true at all." Nino told him emphatically through the headset.
Adrien agreed quickly, "You're selling yourself to short."
"That isn't true." Marinette stepped close to him. "You're amazing Nathanael. You've always been one of the sweetest people I know. You're a fantastic friend, caring and considerate. You're kind and friendly. You draw terrific art and every time you publish a comic in the school paper I get excited. You're always the first to volunteer to help if someone needs posters made. You're so creative that I get jealous sometimes but you're always so down to Earth. Any girl would be lucky to have you!"
"Y… you really think so?" he stuttered. There was absolutely no way to hide the bright red blush that flooded his face. It went from his neck all the way to the tips of his ears. Marinette was too sweet and kind to mention it though even as she stared straight at him with her earnest blue eyes and dazzling smile.
She nodded vigorously, "Absolutely!"
"Listen to your lady!" Adrien said. "She's totally correct."
"A… anytime I say something I… I just sound so so stupid."
"No, no you don't! I mean, no more than normal people do on a regular basis. Everyone says stupid things in front of the person they like but I think it's more nerves than anything else. That all fades in time too."
"She's right," Nino added.
"I think you should tell her the next chance you get. Whoever she is I'm sure she would love to go on a date with you and get to know you better."
"Uh-huh," Marinette told him ever so brightly. Nathanael felt his heart leap into his throat.
"Nathanael now's the time. This is the perfect chance. She's practically giving you an open invitation!" Adrien said.
"You really think that?" he accidentally asked the question out loud. Hope rose in his voice. He couldn't stop it. Marinette giggled, stifling it under her hand.
"I already said yes. You just need a little more confidence in yourself Nathanael. Honestly! "
Nathanael laughed nervously. That was what Adrien had been saying all along. Confidence. All he needed was confidence. Somehow he'd managed to get Marinette inside the zoo without waiting around for Adrien. Somehow he'd been able to get through an entire conversation with her. He'd stammered and stuttered but Marinette hadn't commented on it. She didn't even think what he said was dumb! She was actually listening to him and eager to know what he had to say. This trip to the zoo was actually going really, really well! Maybe he should tell her how he felt about her!
"So…" Marinette drew the word out slowly, "Who is she? Do I know her? Maybe I can help you ask her out."
"Tell her! Tell her now!" Adrien pushed. He was so loud in Nathanael's headset. Marinette was leaning forward, close to him. Like she was waiting for him to tell her a secret.
Nathanael's throat started to swell shut. His tongue felt like lead and his lips had gone dry. The thoughts and words had all fled from his brain. Marinette was so close. "You can do it!" Nino assured him. "Just be honest with her. Marinette loves honesty. She won't laugh at you I'm sure of it."
"Go for it! You can do this Nathanael!" Adrien said.
"M… Marinette," Nathanael tripped over his own tongue. Hesitantly, he reached out. His hand grazed the soft fabric of her sleeve. Her skin was so soft and warm underneath it. Nathanael could feel it on his fingertips. Without really thinking about it, his hand trailed down her forearm lightly. He took a deep breath. It was now or never! He was going to tell Marinette exactly how he felt about her!
"Marinette I… I… I lo…"
Someone's scream cut him off.
Thank you to everyone who reviewed, followed, and favorited!
hienthanh810: TTTThhhannnkkk yoouu! 3
Valkyrie Elysia: No not at all. I personally wish that they would've shown more of Nathanael's crush rather than just kind of giving Nino a crush on Marinette. It felt a little contrived to me and really came out of the blue. I know a lot of it is that there is "no set timeline" but we didn't really see anything that indicated Nino had a crush on Marinette. I felt like it would've been more believable to stick to Nathanael's crush. At least we have some prior knowledge/subtext of his crush on her. *cough*not that our love square needs to be a pentagon*cough*
Delphinesmith99: Part 2 is here! I usually try to update projects with more than one chapter to them every week. I was late this time :(