It started on Rose's birthday.
You really couldn't not know that it was Rose's birthday. The moment Adrien walked in he was confronted by the pink streamers, balloons, and glittery banner that Juleka decorated her and Rose's desk with. The birthday girl herself sat there with a pale pink satin ribbon over her dress that declared her the birthday princess and a fake tiara as her cheeks flushed a deeper pink that matched her usual dress.
Half the class were already crowding her and that seemed to add to her embarrassment as she ducked her head down and kept staring at her hands.
"Happy birthday Rose!" he called out.
"Oh!" she flushed even deeper and smiled shyly back. "Thank you, Adrien."
"Come on girl," Alix nudged her, "open up my pressie."
"Give her a moment!" Alya cried out laughingly. "She hasn't even opened mine yet and I gave it to her before you barged in."
"As her best friend," Juleka said darkly, "I think my present should be the first to be opened."
The door banged open and Marinette staggered in gasping for air. "I'm sorry I'm late!" she said breathlessly. She then staggered forwards holding out the girliest, pinkest, sparkliest, wrapped present that Adrien had ever seen topped with a frilly pink ribbon towards Rose. "Happy Birthday Rose!"
Suddenly the whole class surrounded Rose and Marinette. Adrien looked round with wild bewilderment as he realised Nino had dragged him over by the collar of the shirt. Poor Marinette was suddenly squashed up against one of Rose's sparkly pink balloons as she handed Rose the gift with a sheepish, embarrassed, laugh.
"Open it! Open it! Open it!" the girls all squealed encouragingly as if they hadn't been fighting over which present to open first mere seconds before. "Open it! Open it! Open it! O-"
"What the hell?" Adrien murmured.
"It's Marinette's birthday present," Nino said as if that explained everything. When Adrien stared at him blankly he sighed and slung an arm round Adrien's shoulder. "Marinette makes the best birthday presents. I mean seriously the best. Pretty much everyone got one last year and dude, let me tell you, the gloves she made me were so-"
Adrien tuned out as he suddenly felt rather sick.
It had been his birthday just last month. The first birthday of the school year and he hadn't received anything from Marinette. Not even a proper Happy Birthday as she had turned bright red, made a weird gargling sound, and ran off with Alya.
He still didn't get what that was about.
Adrien shook his head. He was being silly. He barely knew Marinette and doesn't know her all that well now, it would be awful to expect a present from a classmate like that. Marinette got Rose a present because she was obviously good friends with her. She was not deliberately leaving Adrien out of anything.
Rose let out a shrill squeal of excitement as she pulled out a beautiful, delicate, white silk scarf with her namesake embroidered all over them.
Marinette's ramble of how she only did the roses and the scarf was actually shop brought first was smothered in an exuberant hug that she returned with a radiant smile that dazzled everyone.
Adrien ignored the sickly feeling in his stomach and shook his head again in attempt to knock some actual sense in there.
He was just being silly.
And then two weeks later it was Alix's birthday and while her bet with Kim took centre stage, and then her being Akumanised sort of ruined that, Adrien hadn't realised what that meant until Alix suddenly started showing off her new bag.
It's a simple, tiny, black thing decorated in hot pink fish-netting but Alex could hook it over her shoulder and keep it close.
"And the best thing," Alix continued excitedly, "is that I can keep my family watch nice and safe. It's the perfect size! Thanks Marinette," she yanked a very pink and stutter Marinette in a one-armed hug that looked worryingly similar to a headlock, "You're the best."
"I-I-I-it was n-n-nothing!"
Immediately majority of the class cried out their objection, their voices over-lapping one another, as they all protested that Marinette's latest work was not nothing. The only ones that didn't was Chloe (who snorted disdainfully, rolled her eyes, and crossed her arms), Sabrina (who just stood silently beside Chloe), and Adrien….
Adrien was too busy trying to ignore that sickly feeling that returned in his stomach. This horrible sensation of being left out. It's just your imagination, just your imagination, just your imagination, he chanted furiously in his mind, just you imagination, just your imagination, just your imag-
And he almost believed it.
Until the following month when it was Ivan's birthday.
Adrien can honestly say he cannot remember a time where Marinette and Ivan spent any time whatsoever together. Not even to say hello in the morning or anything at all. And yet, when Ivan (looking strangely bright red) walked in, with a birthday boy badge pinned on his chest and Mylene wrapped round his arm, Marinette was the first to approach him with a small parcel.
"Awesome scarf, Marinette," Ivan rumbled quietly as he wrapped the soft black, skull decorated, woolly thing round his neck, "just what I need for winter. Thanks."
Marinette smiled radiantly and Adrien felt like he had just been punched in the gut by an Akuma. "You're welcome," she said sweetly.
He was now almost certain that he had been left out and he didn't understand why. After all it couldn't be a matter of closeness, Marinette was spoke to him more than she did to Ivan. Maybe, he tried to rationalise it and soothe the sickly sensation of his stomach, she just simply doesn't know when my birthday is….
But everyone knows when his birthday is. It's in every single magazine profile on him and on his wiki page and on virtually other social media thing about him. Marinette might not have read majority of the things he was in but she was certainly friends with him on Facebook and that would have reminded her at the time.
Adrien's stomach twisted itself up all the more.
And then there was a sudden rush of birthdays in which Max, Mylene, Juleka, and Kim all celebrated theirs within the same few days. Marinette had apparently become some sort of knitting machine as she produced one amazing hat after another for each and every one of them. Max was sporting some sort of gaming reference that only he and Marinette understood and they had spent the whole day grinning at one another and making inside jokes. Mylene had a rainbow hat that matched all the beads in her hair and left her tackling Marinette into full body hugs all day. Juleka sported a black and purple beanie that matched her hair and Kim had one in his favourite football team's colours, they played tug of war with Marinette in trying to thank her since their birthday fell on the same day and poor, spluttering, blushing, Marinette had to be rescued by Alya.
"Dude," Nino nudged Adrien lightly, "are you all right? You look really pale."
"Yeah," Adrien muttered, "fine."
"Are you sure?" Nino probed. "'cause you're holding onto the desk really tight."
Adrien looked down startled as he realised he had been clenching onto the edge of his desk so tightly that his knuckles had gone white. To make things worse his addition strength from being Chat Noir meant that there was the smallest of cracks forming in the wood. He let go immediately with a sheepish, unconvincing, laugh.
"Yeah, yeah," he laughed some more, "I'm fine. Just thinking about the photoshoot I have to do after school today."
"All right man," Nino said, though he looked unconvinced, "if you say so."
Because there was no way in hell he was going to admit that he was upset and hurt and insanely jealous of everyone because they all got birthday presents from Marinette and he didn't. Because that would be silly. Because he shouldn't expect it from her. Because he hadn't done anything to deserve one….
But Damnit! It hurt like hell to be left out like that.
"Dude, I can't believe we missed your birthday," Kim bemoaned loudly as they all changed for PE. "Seriously man, that sucks." he grimaced. "First you got told off in class, then Chloe, then you were Akumanised, and then none of us acknowledged your birthday. Not even Marinette."
All the boys grumbled in empathy with that and Adrien felt his heart twang in sympathy for poor, quiet, Nathanael who seriously had the worst day ever yesterday let alone birthday. While Adrien's birthday really sucked at least he had Nino trying to throw him a party and his father eventually getting round to giving him his gift. Nathanael definitely had it worse than him.
"It wasn't all that bad actually," Nathanael smiled softly, "after all I got to destroy Chloe's hair."
Everyone but Adrien snickered at that though it was a close call. Adrien was seriously unimpressed with Chloe trying to con him into doing her physics homework while he should be doing hero work.
"Serves her right," Max smirked, "and thank you for that. I will cherish hearing those screams for many years to come."
"So will I," Nathanael grinned back, "and also, Marinette did acknowledge my birthday," he announced with a strange mix of smugness and shyness. Adrien's hand tightened on his t-shirt as he yanked it over his head and hid the fact he was gritting his teeth. Forcing her to date you isn't the same as her willingly acknowledging your birthday! He internally screamed in his head. "Marinette apologised this morning," Nathanael continued, totally unaware of Adrien's new, unusual, anger management issues, "said she forgot to bring it to school with her yesterday and then she gave me these!" Nathanael then pulled out a pair of charcoal grey, hand-knitted, fingerless gloves. The punching sensation instantly took over Adrien's stomach as he took in the sight of the beautiful, lovingly, stitched gloves. "Aren't they perfect?" Nathanael enthused. "They'll keep my hands warm but give me the freedom to use a pencil or brush without hin-"
Everyone jumped as Adrien slammed his locker door so hard that it dented ever so slightly. Without even turning round to smile apologetically, let alone actually say sorry, Adrien instantly turned round and stormed out of the changing rooms.
He was not jealous, he was not jealous, he was not jealous….
"Hey," Ivan could be heard through the changing room's door, "what's his problem?"
He was not jealous, he was not jealous, he was not jealous, he was not jealous, he was not j-
You know what? He couldn't even be bothered to convince himself otherwise. He was incredibly jealous.
After all, why was his Princess bestowing favours on everyone but him?!
Even Chloe and Sabrina got handmade gifts from Marinette.
Chloe and Sabrina.
Sabrina, he could sort of get, after all she had no other friends but Chloe (though one could argue she only has herself to blame for that) and Chloe wasn't exactly the best of friends. Taking pity on Sabrina and going out of her way to mimic that beret Chloe lent to Sabrina once, was classic Marinette. But Chloe?
Marinette despised Chloe. If it wasn't for the fact that Marinette was the sweetest person alive, Adrien would even say that she wished the very worst on Chloe. They argued, called each other names, and Chloe actively made everyone's lives miserable while Marinette went out of her way to stop her. Chloe would be the last person in the world Marinette would think to buy a present for let alone spend ages stitching a personal hair bobble to look like a ladybug. Especially when you consider the fact Chloe once sabotaged Marinette's uncle.
"Marinette's parents are really against leaving people out," Nino explained when Adrien voiced all of this (quietly and away from Marinette's hearing). "When Marinette didn't make Chloe a present last year they really laid into her about it. Something about treating everyone fairly and not sinking to Chloe's level. Since then Marinette has never left anyone out."
So why was he being left out then?! If Marinette's parents had stressed treating everyone with the same kindness and not sinking to Chloe's level, then why was Adrien the only one to not receive a birthday present?
"It's just so not fair!" he whined to Plagg later much more loudly. "At this rate she's going to make you a birthday present instead of me.
"Don't be stupid," Plagg snorted, "for starters I don't even have a birthday and then there's also the fact that she doesn't even know that I exist."
"Jeeze," Plagg rolled his eyes, "if it bothers you that much just ask her for one. I bet you anything she'll trip over her feet to make you one."
"That's not how it works!" Adrien snapped. "You don't ask for one. The person is supposed to want to give you one."
"Eh," Plagg shrugged as he lounged back lazily mi-air, "you humans are so confusing. Why do you have to make things so difficult?"
Adrien threw himself onto his bed and groaned into his pillow. "You just don't get it," he mumbled into the soft, fluffy, comfort-ness.
"And I really don't want to."
Adrien said nothing as he spent the rest of the evening sulking into his pillow while being haunted by dreams of Marinette presenting Plagg with a hand-knitted cheese for him to cuddle.
"Wait a minute!" Adrien suddenly shot up. "If you don't have a birthday then why did I buy you that huge shipment of expensive cheese three months ago to celebrate your five thousandth birthday?!"
"Pfft!" Plagg snorted. "You're so easy to fool. As if I'm only five thousand years old."
It wasn't surprising that as Marinette's best friend, Alya, got the very best birthday present. It made sense after all, and Adrien could never bring himself to be jealous of the very precious bond between Marinette and Alya….well he could but only in the sense that he'd like a friendship as strong and unrelenting as theirs. So when Alya unwrapped her present to reveal a beautiful 1950s style Ladybug coloured dress that must have been the cause of Marinette wandering round the school like a zombie for the last few weeks, Adrien pushed back the small swell of jealous that another person got a present, and smiled an actual real smile as Alya squealed and hugged Marinette tightly in gratitude.
However, when it came to Nino's birthday, Adrien found his jealousy had returned tenfold.
"Oh wow!" Nino cried out as he pulled out a white scarf covered in black musical notes. "Marinette," he breathed in awe as he wrapped it round his neck. "This is awesome!"
"You're welcome," Marinette flushed a pretty pink that made Adrien's stomach clench, "Nino."
Adrien tore his eyes away from Marinette and kept them focused on his notebook as he breathed in deeply and counted to ten. He wanted to shout and snarl and scream the word why over and over again because he seriously couldn't understand it. Why did everyone but him get a birthday present? Why didn't Marinette like him? Did he do something to her? Had he said something rude to her without realising? He just couldn't understand why he was being treated differently from all the others.
Adrien brooded over this all morning until Nino elbowed him at lunch time. "Dude," he moaned, "it's my birthday and we're going laser tag later. Cheer up" Nino ordered imperiously. "No one should be miserable on my birthday."
Now realising that Adrien was being selfish and putting a dampener on Nino's day just made Adrien feel a hundred times worse. He glanced back down at the floor and sighed heavily. "Sorry," he mumbled.
Nino bent awkwardly in an attempt to meet Adrien's eye. "Hey," he said softly, "what's up man? Wanna talk about it?"
Nino grabbed Adrien's arm and made him look up. "It's not nothing," Nino said firmly, "You wouldn't be like this if it was nothing. C'mon, tell me," Nino wheedled, "I'm your best friend. I'm here to listen to you whine. I won't judge."
"Well you see…It's…..it's….it's just not fair!" Adrien burst out. "Everyone gets a birthday present from Marinette. Everyone. Even Chloe got one. Chloe! Everyone gets a birthday present from Marinette but me and I don't understand why."
Adrien panted slightly as he felt a great deal lighter to finally vent about this to someone who could possibly understand.
(Because let's face it, Plagg was useless.)
"But you did get a present from Marinette."
Adrien froze at that. "What?" he breathed.
"Oh shit!" Nino yelped. "Nothing!" he cried out panicked. "I said nothing!"
"I said nothing," Nino said quickly, "You heard nothing, hey, let's go get pizza and talk about nothing."
"Nino," Adrien growled, "Tell me or I swear to God I will tell Alya about the time-"
"Your father didn't buy you that scarf he stole it from Marinette!" Nino blurted out. "She spent weeks making it and tried to give you it all day which was why she was acting like such a weirdo. Alya says that she forgot to sign her name on it and when you claimed your Dad gave it to you Marinette decided to stay silent so you can be happy, all right?!" Nino yelled. He then grabbed his head and groaned loudly. "God," he bemoaned, "Don't ever tell Alya I told you this. She swore me to secrecy and if she knew I told you she'd have my balls as a pair of earrings."
The initial hurt and sadness that his father never got him a present for his birthday was washed out by righteous anger that Marinette had her work stolen from her, and then, Adrien's heart did a weird, fluttery, sensation that he has only ever felt round Ladybug before. Hope filled him and he couldn't quite help but smile faintly.
"….Marinette made me a present?" he whispered. "She didn't leave me out?"
Nino patted Adrien's shoulder. "She didn't leave you out," he reassured him. "You okay?" he asked worriedly. "I know it meant a lot when you thought your Dad got you that scarf."
"It hurts because that means my Dad forgot my birthday but….well," Adrien smiled sheepishly. "It's been killing me all year thinking that Marinette was leaving me out. That she hated me or something and I couldn't figure out why and it was driving me insane. So I actually feel a lot better now because Marinette made me a present."
"Oh bother," he heard Plagg mutter darkly beneath his shirt collar, "another girl for him to moon over like a lovesick puppy."
Adrien coughed loudly so Nino wouldn't hear Plagg, fortunately, though Nino was too busy studying Adrien's face in concern. "So….you're good?"
"I'm good," Adrien grinned.
"Great!" Nino slapped Adrien on the back cheerfully. "Now you can help us all figure out what to get Marinette for her birthday in two weeks because seriously we were this close to just kidnapping you and offering you up on a silver platter."