Marinette is never going to be warm ever again.
She rubs her arms and huddles closer to Alya, her visible breath making her want to cry. She probably would if she didn't know that her tears would freeze to her face. Her hands feel like icicles and Tikki shivers violently under her jacket. She wishes that she'd listened to her mom and wore warmer clothes, but least she can argue that no one ever expects akuma attacks. Especially snow akumas. In April.
Why can't she catch a break? One day, that's all she asks.
"Ugh, w-why is Ladybug taking so long?" Chloé complains. Once she had realized her and Sabrina sitting away from the group didn't keep them warm enough, they'd joined their circled classmates, but that doesn't mean she's happy about it.
Marinette's stomach twists into knots. Chat, please hurry, she thinks desperately.
Time no longer feels real, her entire existence is just cold. When Alya had last updated them, it had been half an hour. If Marinette is remembering correctly, the cold starts getting really dangerous around an hour.
Marinette curled up into a ball and shut down about forty minutes ago.
Alya shakes her. "Stay awake just a little while longer. We'll be out of here soon."
Marinette nods, but her eyelids are so heavy. It's so cold…
Marinette hates weather akumas. She'd been hoping they wouldn't have to deal with any more after Stormy Weather. She remembers Lady Wifi locking Chat in the freezer. As much as they need to be saved, she wishes he didn't have to deal with cold like that again. A sluggish thought appears in her mind. She hopes that he gets out quick and that he doesn't have to feel like this.
Adrien, who's squeezed between Nino and Alya, stands up. Marinette only registers his movement because Alya shifts to let him out, moving Marinette where she rests against Alya's side. She forces herself to pay attention to him, but she can barely keep her eyes focused.
"D-dude, where are you going?" Nino reaches out to him, beckoning him to sit back down.
"Jumping jacks," Adrien says. He bounces on his toes.
Alya closes the distance between her and Nino. "We al-already tried that."
"I'm trying again," he says stubbornly. He moves further away from the group, jumping up and down.
"That boy," Alya mutters.
Marinette had tried moving around earlier and it hadn't helped enough to be worth it. But now she's willing to try anything to get feeling back in her fingers and warm up Tikki at least a little. She wants to get up and try, maybe it'll keep her awake, but she's having a hard time keeping her eyes open. "He might have the right idea," she says to Alya.
Alya shakes her head. "Girl, now is n-not the time to let your crush cloud your judgement. You're in no condition to be jumping around right now."
"I'm not," Marinette says weakly. "But you are. Y-you should get…warm." Her words jumble and catch in her mouth.
Alya doesn't respond and Marinette starts to drift. Her mind is flashing red like everything is broken. Everything is telling her system to stop and go into sleep mode. Her thoughts feel like molasses… Her head…it's filled with…cotton.
She shaken sharply and hauled to her feet.
"Nino?" she murmurs.
She hears his forced laugh, but loses what he says next. Then she's surrounded by warmth, and oh that's so much better. She can process the fact that Alya is supporting her right and Nino has her left and she's still so so cold, but now she almost fully open her eyes.
"Here," Adrien says. "Try to get warm, I can take her." He stops jumping and takes Marinette from Nino and Alya. Marinette doesn't have the energy to freak out about the fact that her arm is around his neck and his arm is wrapped tightly around her waist. "You okay?" he asks softly.
"S-sick of being cold." It's not as warm without Alya flanking her other side. Marinette instinctively moves closer to Adrien. All emotions have been pushed to the back of her mind and replaced with a single thought: stay alive.
"Come on, Mari, just a few more minutes," Alya says loudly. She runs in place, rubbing her hands up and down her arms.
"'m s-so cold," Marinette murmurs.
Adrien jumps a little, moving them both. "This is bad," he says under his breath. She doesn't think she was supposed to hear, but she can't let him go hopeless.
"Ladybug…and Chat…Chat Noir," she says heavily. "They'll be here."
He nods slowly. "One of them will be," he breathes.
If her blood can run any colder, it does. He can't know. Right? She tenses. "W-what did you say?"
Adrien blinks at her in a slow, familiar way. "Well I guess you'll just have to find out, huh, princess?" He winks and his smirk is trembling. She can't tell if it's from the cold or something else.
Pieces slowly start to come together. She wants to deny it, but no one else calls her princess. "Chat Noir?" she asks when she's found her voice. Is this…happening? Or has her mind shut down so much that she's imagining things? Everything is running together in a slow, sticky mess. The urge to curl up in a ball and sleep for a year grows stronger every second. And…Adrien is Chat?
"You good?" Adrien asks, pulling something from his jacket with his free hand. A black, cat-like kwami sits in the palms of his hands, shaking violently.
"That the best you can do?" the kwami asks.
Adrien gives her a weak smile. "I'm getting us out of here. Can you stand for like ten seconds?"
Marinette is definitely more awake now. It's like being drenched with a bucket of water. Ice water. She finds herself nodding, and Adrien steps away.
"Plagg, claws out!" He vanishes in a burst of green light, making all of their classmates gasp and squint. When it fades, Chloé screams.
Chat Noir is already leaping towards to the door, shouting "cataclysm!" and crumbling it to pieces. He pushes everyone outside the frozen room, all of them dazed by his transformation. He grabs Alya and Nino by the arms, yanking them out into the slightly warmer air.
Marinette is still frozen in the same spot, letting the pieces click together slowly. She really wishes outright denial was still an option. She also can't believe that one of Alya's ridiculous theories was right.
Alya had drawn Chat's outfit on Adrien. How had Marinette not seen it then?
"Mari?" Chat places a hand on her shoulder. "You're freezing, you should leave."
Marinette nods. She thinks she nods. She tries to move, she doesn't think she does.
He sweeps her off her feet and into his arms. "Come on, Mari," he whispers. "It'll be okay."
She just cuddles against him, taking in all the body warmth she can.
They're only feet away from the kids rejoicing in the zero degree weather, when there's a blast of ice down the street.
Chat swears. "I hoped she'd moved," he mutters. "We were in there for so long…"
The Ice Queen screams when she sees them free. It was Chloé's fault again. Someone a grade below who she'd teased mercilessly for wearing an extreme amount of winter clothing, all used and hand-me-downs. A blast of ice hits the street.
Chat's grip on Marinette tights. She can feel him tense.
She inhales as much as she can, gathering up all of her remaining energy. "SCATTER!" she yells.
Most of her classmates listen, aside from Chloé, who grabs onto Chat's arm and cries "Adrikins save me!"
He growls and yanks away. He lowers Marinette, keeping an arm around her waist to steady her, before shoving Chloé in Sabrina's direction. "Move, Chloé!" He turns to Marinette with wide eyes.
Marinette wonders if he really is scared or if she's still out of it.
"Are you going to be okay?"
She nods, whispering, "Go."
Chat stares at her for a moment before glancing over to the Ice Queen. "I'll check on you later," he promises before sprinting off to fight.
Marinette waits for him to throw himself at the akuma before she starts running, tripping over herself and barely able to catch her breath. She gasps as her back hits the wall of the tight alley she's hidden in. She pulls Tikki from her jacket. The Ice Queen has dropped the temperature dramatically, but it's significantly warmer than the -30 degrees Celsius the room had been.
"Tikki," she murmurs. "Tikki, are you warm enough to transform?"
"I hate the cold," Tikki mumbles. She trembles in Marinette's hands and it's terrifying how much it reminds Marinette of when Tikki was sick.
Marinette can relate. Ever since becoming Ladybug, she's developed the slightest of bug tendencies. If she feels like her body is shutting down, Tikki must be struggling. "Tikki, please. Ten minutes, we just need to help Chat. We'll go straight home and sit in the bathroom with the shower on after, I promise."
"A-a-are you going to be okay?"
"I have to be," Marinette says. She can handle ten minutes. She always feels stronger as Ladybug anyway. Besides, she has no choice. Chat needs help.
Tikki nods. "O-okay."
Marinette sags against the wall in relief. "Tikki, spots on!"