Marinette is still shivering as she yanks open her trap door. She chalks it up as a minor miracle that she even made it back to her balcony without falling out of the sky.
She lands on her bed and has to basically slide down her steps to make sure she doesn't fall over. She reaches the bottom of them and stays there, curled up in a ball. She doesn't know if getting up is a good idea. Tikki is curled up in her pocket. After Marinette had detransformed, she had had to catch Tikki before she hit the ground.
Marinette has never felt this useless.
She'd arrived at the fight and not even a minute into it, Chat had literally picked her up and carried her away. She hadn't even been able to stop him or protest. She had barely been able to stand. She had landed next to him on shaky knees, and the Ice Queen had shot right at her.
A direct hit had not been helpful. Chat had scooped her up in his arms, murmuring, "I can take care of this, Ladybug, don't worry about it." He'd put her down a distance away, shouting for Lucky Charm when he needed it. And she'd barely been able to keep her eyes open.
Some partner she was.
She was actually surprised he'd let her leave by herself. But he'd been distracted. Of course he was. He'd just revealed himself to their entire class. Marinette has no idea if the news has spread, but there's no doubt it's all they're talking about among themselves. Alya is probably screaming.
Marinette lays down on the floor so she doesn't have to sit up anymore. She curls up tighter on herself.
If this is how she goes, it's probably the worst possible way.
Her mind is starting to go numb and sticky again, all filled with honey and cotton. Not a combination she'd recommend.
"Huh?" she asks, lifting her head a little when there's a hand on her shoulder. She blinks a few times and tries to focus her eyes. "C-chat?"
"Mari, why are you on the floor?" he says softly. He pulls her into his arms, rubbing his hand up and down her back.
It doesn't do much to warm her up — she's never going to be warm again — but it's comforting. She tucks her face into the crook of his neck and tries to soak up as much of his warmth as possible.
"W-why are you…?" she trails off, teeth chattering too much to be able to continue.
"I went back to class," he says. She vaguely notes him adjusting his arms. She closes her eyes and feels the slight rush of air as he cradles her to his chest and stands. "Everyone was trying to talk to me, but I couldn't find you. Alya hadn't seen you. And I was worried. So after I got them all to promise that they wouldn't say anything, I came here. I wanted to see if you were okay."
"'m fine," Marinette mumbles.
"Sure you are, Princess. Let's get you warm."
She doesn't really register anything else until Chat puts her down. She blinks slowly, the bright, fluorescent lights making it even harder to process what's happening. The ground is cold, cold tile. There's the sounds of water being turned on. The bathroom?
Adrien is standing over her bathtub as he fills it from the showerhead. She can see the steam from the hot water as it falls, but she can barely feel a thing. She doesn't remember Adrien changing back. Steam starts to fill the bathroom and she thinks she might be able to uncurl just the slightest bit from her ball.
Marinette doesn't really register the fact that Adrien is helping her pull her jacket off. Or her shoes. Her mind isn't exactly processing. Except it does note that she should probably start freaking out when she's standing in front of Adrien Agreste in just a shirt and her underwear. And by standing, she means leaning on heavily.
She can die of embarrassment when she can feel her fingers again.
All she can think of as Adrien helps her into the almost full tub is Chat's scream — Adrien's scream — when the akuma hit her. He'd already been sending her nervous looks, but the only other time she'd seen him that terrified was during the fight with Animan. She can still feel the ice blast hitting her left shoulder and spreading, spreading— ice running through her veins and threatening to shut her down for good.
She winces as her feet touch the water.
"Too hot?" Adrien asks.
"T-too cold," she mumbles.
"You're the one who's too cold," he corrects softly. "It's hot, I promise."
Marinette slowly sinks into the tub as Adrien starts digging through her bathroom drawers. A kwami shoots out of his pocket and dives into one of them.
"Plagg," Adrien grumbles, pulling him out. "Not your place to nap."
"And yet it's your place to dig through," Plagg complains, floating down to Marinette's jacket. He looks up at her before burying himself in a pocket. Tikki's pocket.
Marinette's not warm enough yet to help Tikki. She thinks her insides are just starting to defrost.
"W-what's that?" she asks as Adrien twists open a bottle and pours something into the bath.
"Bubble bath!" he says with a bright smile.
She blinks twice before giggling. His excitement at something so simple warms her up more than the water does.
"Nothing like a bubble bath to make you feel better." He drags his fingers over the top of the water as bubbles begin to form.
Marinette sinks a little lower, letting the water cover her shoulders. "Y-you trust them all with your secret?" she asks after a few moments of silence.
"I don't really have a choice," Adrien points out. "I'm just glad I caught them before they all started to post on social media."
"Chloé hadn't said anything?" Marinette asks, surprised. Chloé is usually the first one to update social media, Alya just seconds after.
Adrien rests his other arm on the side of the tub, moving his hand in the water in slow circles. "No. She was the one who made everyone stop talking. She was the first to promise not to say anything."
Adrien looks over to her with a sad smile. "Secrets are kind of our thing."
"Oh." Marinette knew that Chloé and Adrien had been friends for a while, but she knew nothing about their friendship other than what she'd seen in school. She shouldn't be so surprised that it's not all that it seemed. After all, Adrien was Chat. She hadn't exactly seen that coming.
"You didn't ask me," she realizes.
Adrien lifts his head from where he'd been resting it on his arm. "Huh?"
"You didn't ask me to keep your secret."
He laughs softly. "I had other worries." He looks at her with such a soft expression in his eyes that it catches her off guard. It's how Chat looks at her sometimes, although she pretends not to notice. And she's also usually Ladybug when he looks at her like that.
Adrien blows some of the bubbles her way. "I wonder why you were so affected by the cold," he muses. It's soft and breathy and she doesn't know if she was really supposed to hear it. He turns off the water and scoops up a handful of bubbles.
Marinette takes a deep breath. "Thank you," she says quickly.
He glances up from the sculpture of bubbles he's making. "Of course."
She shakes her head. "N-no. Thank you for…for doing what I couldn't do."
Adrien gives her a confused look. "What do you mean?"
"Ladybugs hate the cold, you know."
He stares at her, but not really. It's almost like he's staring past her. She lets him process as she slowly sinks further under the water, the water reaching her nose and then just below her eyes. She squeezes her eyes shut and ducks all the way under.
Keeping her eyes closed, she wiggles her fingers and toes. The water isn't as hot anymore, but she can finally really feel it's warmth. She takes it all in, her ears warming up much faster now that they're underwater. She fingers the edge of her shirt as her cheeks heat up for reasons other than the bath. Wearing clothes in the bathtub is just strange.
She feels a little bit more alive as she comes up for air. Adrien is still staring, but his eyes flick towards her as she surfaces.
"Wow," he says softly.
"W-what?" she asks. She's suddenly very conscious of the fact that she's in the bath in her underwear and Adrien Agreste is right there.
"We're really oblivious, aren't we?"
Marinette laughs. It's like all the pressure that had built up in her chest underwater has vanished and she can finally breathe again. "Yeah. Yeah we are."
At some point Adrien decides that being in lukewarm water is no longer doing anything and wraps Marinette in a towel as the tub and remaining bubbles drain. Marinette is trying really hard not to think about the fact that she's now dripping wet, in a towel, in her underwear, next to Adrien Agreste. She scoops up her clothes as they leave the bathroom, peaking in the pocket to see Tikki wrapped up against Plagg, no longer shaking. She changes into the warmest pajamas she can find while Adrien waits outside her room.
"Ladybug pajamas," he says as she opens the door. "Classy."
She sticks her tongue out at him. "Like you don't own any Chat Noir merch."
Adrien shrugs. "Maybe I do, maybe I don't. It's up to you to figure that out, bugaboo," he teases as he takes her arm as they walk down the stairs. If she asked, she knows he'd say it's just to be careful. She can't help but hope that there's another reason.
"I'm not that cold anymore," Marinette insists as Adrien piles blankets on her.
"And I'm not convinced," Adrien says as he slides under them.
"You don't trust me?"
"Of course I trust you, My Lady," he promises with a twinkle in his eyes. "But I wasn't the one who almost froze today."
Marinette just sighs and lets him take control of the TV. They must be somewhere in the middle of the Aristocats when she falls asleep. She thinks she woke up at some point, because she catches bits and pieces of a conversation. Adrien says something about akumas and her mother whispers something in return. But the conversation is faded and hard to grasp, like the edge of a dream.
She wakes up partially but decides she's too comfortable to move. Too warm. It feels like she needs to sleep for another month or so, but sleep is just out of her grasp. She opens her eyes slowly, trying to figure out what's going on. Everything is sort of a blur.
Everything is sort of a blur until she realizes she's cuddling with Adrien. Her back is against the back of the couch and she's facing Adrien, face very close to his chest and his arm resting on her waist. She stiffens a little, her eyes wide as the day before comes flooding back. Oh.
"Morning, Mari," Adrien mumbles, eyes still closed.
"It's…" She pushes herself up and squints in the darkness to see the time on the clock below the TV. "Two in the morning."
"Still morning," he says, his grip around her waist tightening. She lays back down, staring at him. He cracks open one eye. "Too awake to sleep?"
"Yeah," she whispers, moving Adrien's arm and sitting up.
Adrien pushes himself up on his arm. "What's wrong?"
She sinks back into the couch. "I just… I'm worried."
"That someone's going to tell?" Adrien asks, eyebrows furrowed.
"Yeah." She bites her lip and looks away.
"Hey," Adrien moves her chin with his thumb so she's looking at him again, "if someone tells, that's my problem. I'll handle it. Burn that bridge when I get to it. No one is going to know about you unless you tell them. I promise."
Marinette sighs. "What if this happens again?"
"If what happens again?"
"I get too cold and I just…stop?"
"We'll figure it out," Adrien says.
"But it'll make it harder for you and who wants a partner who shuts down when they get cold?! I mean—"
"Marinette," he says firmly. "It'll be fine. It's just something we have to be careful of. I'm sure I have a weakness like that I haven't found out about yet."
Marinette closes her eyes. "I don't want to be a burden."
"You are never a burden."
She opens her eyes to see Adrien staring intently at her.
"You are never a burden," he repeats, "and you never will be. We're partners, there for each other through thick and thin. Stuck together every step of the way and there's nothing that could ever make me want to change that."
Marinette is glad her brain is still a little out of it, because it's too slow to stop her before she leans forward and kisses Adrien softly. It takes a second for him to kiss back, but when he does, relief rushes through her. At least she didn't screw this up.
She pulls away and rests her forehead against his. "Thank you," she whispers.
"What are partners for, My Lady?" He cups her cheek with his hand before kissing her once more, soft and sweet. She feels like she's melting. When he pulls away, he whispers, "Can we go back to sleep now?" against her lips.
Marinette laughs breathlessly. "Yes." She's no longer quite so awake. Her whole being is tired, and she's going to have to ask Tikki in the morning if she's going to be this drained whenever it gets cold. Because if she is, they're going to have to do some planning. "Yes, we can go back to sleep."
"Great." Adrien lays back down, pulling Marinette down with him. He wraps her up in his arms again, closer this time. She makes herself comfortable against his chest and tucks herself back under the blankets. If preparing for winter is going to involve cuddling, she's all for it.