The beat and flow of the music was Nino's constant morning companion, pumping from his headphones as he walked towards school. He let the sound of it sooth his raw edges, for whatever reason in a rotten mood as far as he went. In comparison to others he wasn't really all that bad, he mostly just got quiet, but he still found it difficult to head out that morning. He just wanted to stay put and not deal with anything, and he knew it was only going to get worse. Maybe that's where the foul mood came from, if not just from his lack of sleep. He had stayed up till almost four in the morning trying to finish this project on time, and he knew he was woefully unprepared for the test that went along with turning it in.
Another satisfying drop in music, falling in rhythm with his steps. He sighed, shaking his head and forging on, figuring that dwelling was just going to make him crabbier. Might as well get there and fail so he can go home again.
Nino jogged up the steps, keeping his headphones on as he set up besides the schools entrance to wait for Adrien. This wasn't exactly a ritual that had been agreed upon at any point, it's just what he did but Adrien seemed to appreciate it. Nino sourly considered how transparent he could be to his best friend, and doubted he would get very far before Adrien asked him what was wrong. He tried to consider a good answer, closing his eyes for a second to soothe his headache from exhaustion.
He about jumped out of his skin when someone touched him, and he almost fell off the ridiculously steep wall as a result before Adrien grabbed him, steading him on his feet.
"Woah dude!" he vaguely heard Adrien exclaim, taking off his headphones to hear the rest, "Don't freak out! Did you fall asleep out here?"
Nino looked at Adrien, slowly blinking as he got his bearings before rubbing awkwardly at his neck.
"Uh, yeah I guess," Nino laughed dismissively, trying to wake himself up a bit but failing miserably. God he was freaking tired.
"Did you get any sleep? You look dead on your feet," Adrien pressed, following after Nino as he suddenly started to head inside without warning.
"Not really," Nino said simply, his tone neutral but Adrien still quirked an eyebrow, jogging a bit to get ahead of him and force him to stop.
"What's up?" Adrien asked immediately, and Nino avoided his gaze, biting back irritation he knew only came from lack of sleep.
"Nothing, just tired. Kind of in a bad mood," Nino said honestly, and Adrien looked him so intensely in the eye he almost felt the need to back up before he nodded, apparently satisfied that he was telling the truth.
"Want me to leave you alone?" Adrien asked as they neared the classroom but Nino was quick to shake his head.
"No, you're fine. I just might not be like, super chatty today."
"That's cool with me, you ever want me to leave you be just let me know" Adrien said with that earnest sort of grin he was always able to spot out of his fake model ones. Despite his foul mood it made Nino smile.
"Thanks man, I appreciate it."
"No problem," Adrien assured him, clapping him on the shoulder and grinning again before excusing himself. Nino watched him for a moment trying to figure out where he was going before just deciding to wait at his desk since it was still early. Maybe he could catch some sleep.
That was the good thing about Adrien, he always knew when to back off. There were a lot of good things about Adrien, they were friends for a reason, so he knew he could count on Adrien's silent company for the rest of the day.
The thought made him feel a little better.
He was startled awake again by Adrien, and he was very surprised to find the classroom full and already in session. Man when he was tired enough he could sleep through a freaking war… what class was this even?
Ugh… Nino could feel his crabbiness returning. He just wanted to get through the day, maybe he would get lucky and the school would blow up before the test could be given. Wouldn't be the first time.
Classes ticked by only worsening his mood, but he admittedly felt a bit recharged from his cat nap in the library through lunch. Adrien dutifully kept people from disturbing him, yet another thing he was grateful for from the blond today.
He was groaning himself awake when Adrien asked a pretty innocent question from his seat across from him, a textbook in his hands.
"You ready for the test?" he said simply, jumping slightly when Nino banged his head into the tabletop, his hat getting knocked off.
"Uh, I'll take that as a no?" Adrien asked, looking down at Nino skeptically as he softly pounded his head again and again.
"I'm gonna fail," Nino sighed, grimacing dramatically at nothing.
"You'll be fine dude," Adrien reassured him, leaning back in his chair with a half-smile on his face. Did he always look like he was posing? Nino was starting to think yes.
"No. Not fine," Nino muttered, taking his cap and shielding his eyes with it from the harsh light of the waking world. "Dead actually, dead on the floor. Under a pile of F's like a… failed, person. Failure. That's the word I was going for."
Adrien's laugh was loud before he cut it off, snickering as quietly as he could into his hand. Nino peaked up at him with a frown from beneath his shield, his eyes falling to their literature textbook in his grasp.
"I'm assuming you're going to ace it then," Nino muttered.
Adrien took a second to collect himself before saying, "Maybe, mostly cause I took lunch time to study instead of drool on a table."
"I don't drool," Nino protested, his eyes glancing down just to double check which made Adrien laugh again.
"Here," Adrien said suddenly, closing the book and sliding it over to his friend, "We have like three more minutes, might as well cram."
Nino glared at the book for a second before sighing and sitting up, flipping aimlessly through the text. Nino looked at it for another minute before his pounding headache made him sigh and close it again.
"Is it too much to hope for some crazy supervillain to disrupt school again and cancel classes for the day?" he mumbled mostly to himself, but he caught Adrien's questioning and slightly amused expression.
"Are you seriously banking on the school getting shut down by an akuma attack just because you don't want to take a test?"
"Not everyone has as bad of luck as you," Nino retorted weakly, looking down at the closed textbook. "Maybe I'll get lucky."
Adrien chuckled, shaking his head and his stupid perfect hair. "Well I say bet on the textbook, but maybe that's just me."
And just then, quite literally out of nowhere, the ground shook violently in time with the sound of a large explosion and a chorus of terrified screams.
Adrien and Nino's eyes both shot wide, the friends staring at each other for a second before Nino started to laugh from a combination of disbelief and fear.
"You were saying!?" Nino panic laughed, and Adrien scolded him crossly.
"The school is under attack don't laugh Nino!"
"Sorry but just, what are the chances!?" Nino cackled again, before they both turned sharply at the sound of more screams and Nino gulped nervously. "Okay well maybe my silver lining can wait…"
"You think!?" Adrien shouted, suddenly on his feet with an intensely focused look on his face. "Stay here and stay out of sight."
"Wait where are you going!?" Nino shouted after his friend, who was all at once sprinting for the library's entrance. There was another loud explosion and Nino looked at his best friend running head long into danger.
"Stay out of sight Nino!" Adrien shouted over his shoulder, before he was gone, sprinting through a terrified crowd of students.
"What the hell, what the hell does he have a death wish!?" Nino screamed to himself, ducking underneath the table. He was positive Ladybug and Cat Noir would show up and save the day like they always did but that didn't mean Adrien could be so reckless!
Nino knew how these things usually went for him. When the city was attacked he would hide like everyone else and wait for their heroes to save them but- His mind flashed to that fearless look of determination Adrien had just before running towards the attack sight. He didn't get freaked out, he didn't panic or cower ever. Nino couldn't think of a single time he had ever seen him hiding during an akuma attack, was he just out evacuating people? Nino cared about his friends too, a lot, he'd do anything for them, but when an attack happened he was always worried about them and he never ran out to find them. Not like Adrien did.
Another explosion shook the ground and he screwed his eyes shut, shaking from fear beneath the table. But to be honest, he wasn't really scared of the akuma. He was scared Adrien was going to get hurt. Brave was one thing but stupid was another, and the more he thought about it the more he didn't know where his other friends were. Were they scared? Were they hiding? Had they made it out of the school?
Was he seriously just going to wait to find out?
Adrien was out there in the battlefield like an idiot, and Nino kept thinking about all the amazing things Adrien had done for him that day, all that things that reminded him why they were always so close.
And there was just no way in hell he was going to let him get himself killed.
Nino was sprinting from the library before he had really decided to leave, already running through the school, and dodging throngs of terrified students and faculty. There wasn't any fire he could see but the ground kept shaking, time and time again almost knocking him off his feet. He was scared, freaking terrified but he had to find his friends, he wasn't leaving the school without them.
He paused at the corner of a hallway that lead to the main courtyard, and by the sound of things that's where the baddy was, but his best shot of getting to his classroom where Marinette and Alya were likely to be stuck was to get out in that courtyard and up the stairs.
His knees were shaking at the very idea, his confidence almost breaking when the ground shook violently again but he grit his teeth. He wondered if he had that same look of determination in his eyes.
He turned the corner and sprinted for the stairs in one motion, the action of the fight visible in his peripheral but he didn't turn. He made it to the steps and started his ascent when he heard the sassy quip that could only be Cat Noir and hearing it made him laugh a loud in anxious relief. At least one of his heroes was here, already on the scene, but it looked like he was alone.
When he made it to the top he dared to look down for a second, seeing some freaking… crazy drill… lady? He couldn't even explain it but that was probably what all the shaking was from. And there was Cat Noir, standing firm with a cocky grin, leaning on his staff. But no Ladybug.
Where was she?
Nino shook his head, refocusing himself and turning to face his classroom when suddenly he saw the door open.
It was Marinette, looking back into the room almost as if she was checking if anyone saw her leave and shutting the door quietly.
"Marinette!" he shouted, the whole length of the hall between them combined with the explosive fighting beneath them drowning out his voice. Her back was to him and suddenly she was running away from the safety of the classroom and down the hall away from him.
"What the hell!?" Nino said aloud again, groaning and grabbing his head in frustration before taking off after her. Why were his friends not just staying put!? Adrien was one to talk about him staying safe, all of his friends seemed to be running towards danger.
Nino kept shouting her name, trying to catch up to her, always just one turn behind her as she ran into the deep and now mostly deserted parts of the school. She didn't hear him though, but his determination to make sure she stayed hidden drove him forward. He wasn't going to let any of his friends get hurt because he was too scared to protect them.
He turned a final corner, grinning in relief when he saw Marinette crouched mostly out of sight with her back to him. He was about to speak, and there would be many times where he would wonder what would be different if he had. If he had gotten there a second sooner he would have caught her crouching and surprised her, and nothing would have changed. If he had gotten there a second later she wouldn't even have been there, but rather someone else, and nothing would have changed.
But quite by chance, Nino arrived exactly when he did, his words catching on his tongue as he watched a sudden flurry of bright red, flashing light consume his friend.
The only people in that hallway had been himself and Marinette Dupain-Cheng, but now he stood still, completely frozen, as Ladybug stood up in her place.
His mouth had dropped open, staring at the superhero in complete and utter disbelief. Every other function of his brain had stopped working besides the one that was now looping the phrase, "Marinette is Ladybug," a thousand times over in the space of a second.
He tensed when she turned, horror crossing her face as she saw him standing there, so pale and freaked out that there was no way he hadn't seen what she really hoped he hadn't seen.
Because he had absolutely seen.
"Oh my god," she whispered, her eyes wide in shock.
"Oh my god," Nino echoed, his hands balling up into fists and his arms curling close to his chest.
"Oh my god," Ladybug screamed, grabbing roughly at her pigtails, pulling a ridiculous expression of terror only Marinette could manage.
"OH MY GOD" Nino finally broke, hands at the top of his head before he just started shouting, his brain breaking in panic.
"Nino shut up!" Ladybug tried to stop him, holding out her hands in front of her like she was corralling a herd of startled chickens. But hearing the voice he now recognized as Marinette's come out of his freaking hero just made him keep shouting. It was like a dam of information had collapsed, like some weird spell had kept him from seeing it this whole time, because now it completely made sense.
He was tackled pretty roughly to the ground, Ladybug slamming her hand over his mouth to muffle his freaked out shouting.
"STAFHKSOIFHKS." Nino's muffled shouting was made unintelligible, but he still stared up at Marinette's incredibly familiar too blue eyes that were still wide from panic.
"Stop screaming and I'll let you go!" she said tensely, looking all around to ensure no one else was there.
Nino reached up, grabbing her hand away and saying, "Marinette what the hell!?"
She squealed, screwing her eyes shut and shaking her head so that the pigtails became messy and lopsided. "Ahhh," she groaned, "oh man this is bad this is really bad."
"How long have you be- have you always been Ladybug!? This whole time!?" Nino was quickly silenced by her again, her eyes intense and narrowing to drive home her point, but he could still see the scared designer he had always been friends with.
"Nino you can't tell anyone, no one can know do you understand? Nobody!"
Nino shook her hand from his face, about to speak again when he saw something so incredibly earnest and pleading in her eyes.
"Please Nino," she spoke again, her voice softer and desperate as she looked down at him, "Please promise me you'll keep it a secret, I need to know I can trust you."
To her surprise, through all of his panic and shock, Nino looked upset.
"Of course you can trust me!" he shot back at her, making draw back slightly in surprise at how powerfully he said it. "Mari- I- this is freaking crazy but I'm not gonna tell anyone! I swear," he said genuinely, leveling her with an unshakeable gaze, "I won't tell a soul."
They were frozen like that for a second, Ladybug sat on top of him, pinning him to the ground. Nino had no clue what to think, or even how to think, what was happening. But what he did know, was that there was no way he was going to throw Marinette under the bus. This was the biggest secret he could even imagine h- he wasn't going to betray her trust. No way in hell.
Just then another huge tremor shook through the school and Ladybug looked towards the courtyard nervously, her gaze switching between the fight she needed to be at and the DJ trapped beneath her.
"I need to go," she said tensely, doubt clear in her eyes. "Cat can't fight that thing alone I need to be there."
"Yeah," he stuttered out, still not even close to processing what was happening to him.
They stared at each other for another moment before a second huge tremor forced her to act.
"I'll find you after," she promised, "and I'll explain, I swear. Just get out of the school it isn't safe here."
"What about everyone else? Adrien is out there somewhere I ran out looking for him!"
Ladybug looked frightened when he admitted to his best friend being in danger, but that strong determination settled in her eyes again. "I'll find Adrien, just get out of here. Cat Noir and I will keep everyone safe. I have to go!"
She stood up, freeing him and sprinting away down the hallway they had come from, and Nino could only gape. He blinked, once, twice, laying his head down and just sort of laying on the ground.
There was another huge quake and he just rode it out, staring at the ceiling of the hallway.
Very slowly he reached up towards the brim of his hat, drawing the red cap over his eyes as he turned onto his side, not quite in the fetal position, but somewhere close.
He started to make a noise, something sort of like a 'eeeeaaaHHHHHHH' that slowly grew in volume, until suddenly he was on his feet, cap in one hand and headphones in the other, running like the freaking wind, screaming easily three times as hysterically as any other fleeing civilian.
What confused other people the most, is that he sort of looked excited.