It was such a coincidence yet it wasn't one at all.
Golden yellow and reflecting the light from the windows, there he stood with his side swept hair. She stared in awe and shock, tea cup in hand. His eyes, vibrant green and brighter than she's ever seen it be, blinked and moved. The moment they met hers was as if the world had come to a standstill. She's never felt so caught, so enchanted. His eyes widened, then softened, his mouth tilting upwards. The smile she's always seen, the smile she's etched into memory; to be able see it again just as gentle as it was before, she really doesn't know how fate works.
Barely being able to hold onto her tea cup, she broke into a clumsy smile. Not knowing why or if its because of her, but a tinkling laugh of a response, sweet and soft, escaped from his lips. It was the same laugh she memorized, the same one she's heard so many times, and yet here she is falling in love with it all over again, just like the first time she's heard it.
He walks over to her, to her table over in the corner, his hair shining, reflecting, his eyes never leaving hers. Her mouth opens and closes, wanting to say something yet the words wouldn't come. It's slow, everything's so slow. His movements, her breath, she couldn't even think. Reaching her, smiling at her, pulling out the chair in front of her, he does it all too smoothly. She scrambles to find her breath, fumbling, placing her tea cup down. All of a sudden she's self-conscious. Her face, does it look okay? She touches it, and warmth meets her fingertips. Her sudden embarrassment over this warms it even more. She feels like she's on fire.
He greets her. She can't even breathe.
He says her name, lightly letting it drop from his lips. Her name. She hasn't heard it. Not from him. Not like this. A refreshing sound, amazingly sweet yet slightly bitter. A nostalgic tune, one she hasn't heard in so long.
Trying to gather herself together, she pushed out her words; a fumbled "Hi."
With him this close to her now she notices, just on the tips of his hair, tiny beads of a colorless liquid; raindrops. She realizes now why his hair shined so much more than before. It's slick, smooth, just a bit more flattened than how it usually was.
"You're wet." She utters out.
His coat too, despite stylish and warm, had no hood and was covered in water droplets. He chuckled softly. Her heart swelled.
His head turns to the window next to the table, and she hears it. The pounding of the rain, strong and gentle woven together, with her own heart beating the same.
She breathes in. It's faint but it's there. Even in this place, in this old cafe smelling of rich coffee and sweet pastries, she could smell it, riding on the breeze drifting in whenever someone opens the door.
Fresh, clean and very sweet, it's that familiar smell of rain. The exact same smell from that day he had offered his umbrella to her when she didn't have one; the day when she had first laughed together with him; the one that had rung and shook with down-pouring rain.
The same day she had met his eyes, and had fallen in love with him.
Seeing him before her, the outside rain knocking softly, and his eyes moving to meet hers once again, wasn't it just like before?
"To meet you here of all times..." Those thoughts flitted through her mind, and she opens her mouth.
"Did you come here to shelter from the rain?"
It was a casual question, one that would likely mean nothing to him, yet he'll never know just how special all of this means to her.
"Was it too obvious?"
He chuckled again, but with just a slight hint of nervousness this time, and rubbed his neck. The way he acts when he's shy, it never did change. She smiles despite herself.
Reaching for the napkin dispenser at the far side of the table, she pulled out a few. Opening up the folds of the napkins, she wasn't really thinking when she reached over to dry his hair. It wasn't until spikes of hair met her fingertips that she stopped mid-movement as realization washed over her.
Gasping, her face burned beet red.
She stutters stupidly before looking down at his face. He looked a bit surprised as his eyes met hers, but he soon broke into a small laugh. Hearing it, realizing the situation, the embarrassment is making her heart pound non-stop. She stutters a series of unintelligible apologies before he suddenly cuts her off.
"It's okay," he laughs, "Thank you."
She's at a loss for words. How he could so easily reduce her to such a fumbling mess is completely beyond her. Her face continues to warm up as she sits there with arms outstretched, hands hovering just above his hair, unsure of what to do next. Watching her, he seemed to have sensed her uncertainty, and his mouth tilted into a teasing smile.
"I'm waiting," he said and looked at her expectantly.
It takes all she has not to drop everything and run out the door. Blushing and cursing herself, she places her hands with the napkins on his hair and she dries it. His hair tickles her fingertips as she soaks away every last droplet of water.
Timidly, she takes a peek at his face from underneath, and she notices his eyes were closed and his mouth was almost in the shape of...a cat? When it's happily getting scratched by it's owner? It's as if he's really enjoying this, and this thought alone sets her off on another series of heart pounds and warm cheeks.
"O-Okay I'm done."
She pulls away, her hands trembling just slightly, and discards the wet napkins at a corner of the table for the time being.
He lifts his head and flashes her a smile. Unable to do anything else she clumsily smiles back.
"It's nothing," she says.
A silence followed after that. Marinette blinked and lowered her head, still in the process of cooling down. The sounds of pattering rain and wafts of cafe goods was all that filled the space between them now. She fidgeted, feeling awkward, unsure. She wanted to say something yet her mind was a mess, her thoughts were jumbled, her feelings were everywhere.
It was his voice that suddenly rose, cheery and bright, breaking the silence and the knot that had begun to form in her stomach.
"It's been a while since we've last seen each other, huh? I'm glad I was able to run into you here."
He's looking at her again, smiling at her, smiling in that familiar gentle and sweet way he's always has. She doesn't know if she'll ever get tired of seeing that smile. A lock of her hair falls in front of her face. She brushed it back onto her ear as she smiled.
"I'm glad I was able to meet you again too, Adrien."
His name. It's been so long, so very long since she's said his name out loud. To be able to keep calling out his name, every chance she gets, whenever it's possible, and hear his reply...be it a laugh, a smile, or even anger... A life like that would definitely be truly wonderful.
They spent much of the afternoon catching up on their lives since they last met, which was about a year ago after they had both graduated. She's really incredibly happy to have created a friendship with him, enough to allow them to still meet after graduation. Although, their studies after that prevented them from meeting as often as she would've liked and now it's already been a year.
She took a sip of tea from her cup as she watched him talk.
"...and my father's been working me like a machine lately. I can barely even catch myself a break between school and my outside lessons and modelling..."
He lamented, resting his chin in his hand as he stared out the window. The rain was still going strong.
That's right. Even though high school technically ended, Adrien's personal outside lessons never did stop, not to mention his modelling too. Feeling sympathy for him, she wanted to cheer him up.
"But you're out now! Being able to be here with me means you have a break now doesn't it?"
Adrien chuckled slightly, taking a sip from the coffee he had ordered earlier.
"Well, I guess you could say that. It's just my piano lessons ended early today because some things came up over there. So I asked them not to call the Gor- I mean my Chauffeur to pick me up early so I could have some time to myself."
He looked pretty drained as he talked. It caused a sharp pang of pain in her chest. He then turned to look at her, and shrugged.
"I guess you could say this was a 'lucky' break. Or as lucky as I could get it. After that it started down-pouring rain and I had to run inside the first shop I saw... But then maybe it wasn't so bad after all since," he smiled, "I was able to run into you. I guess my luck was still there, huh?"
She blinked. The way he just gazes at her, says all that and then smiles so sweetly... Her heart is quickening in pace, just when she managed to calm it down too...though she supposed it never did become fully calm in the first place.
Pulling herself together enough to manage a smile back, she says to him, "I'm really happy I could meet you here too..."
Though she knows, to him, those words probably mean nothing more beyond plain politeness. But she means them. She really does. She can't even describe how much she's missed him, how much she's wanted to see him. A day would come, a day would go and she'd hope everyday that he was doing well, that he hadn't forgotten about her, that a time where they could meet up would come sooner. That's why, to see him again now, even though they've been apart for just a year, fills her with so much happiness she could just burst. Simply seeing his smile, hearing his laugh, and just being with him...she couldn't ask for anything more.
"Yeah. You're right," she says, smiling quietly. "It's really lucky."
A sudden melody drifted out from somewhere in the cafe. Surprised, they both turned to the source. On the opposite side from where their table was, in a small corner of the cafe, was a wood piano that stood against the wall. It appeared to be rather old, the once glossy rich brown wood having dulled into a dusty brown instead. A child was sitting on the piano bench, playing a melody Marinette didn't recognize but nonetheless was still beautifully played.
"It's really nice." She smiles, listening.
"It is." Adrien smiles too as he watches the player, a young girl of maybe 7 or 8 years of age. "I recognize the tune. It's a simplified and shorter version of a longer song, meant for beginners. I learned it back when I was first starting out. The full unmodified version is a bit harder though."
"Do you know how to play it?" she asked.
"Just barely," he chuckled.
After the song finished, the cafe erupted into a light applause. She and Adrien clapped along as well, and the girl beamed. When the applause subsided, she began a new song, but after listening for a few seconds Marinette realized it's the same song from before except it included a more complex left-hand portion this time and sounded grander.
"Ah!" Adrien exclaimed. She turns to him.
"She's playing the harder version of that last song."
It started off mellow, pleasant, an easy repetitive melody. The accompaniment of the left-hand's playing this time added even more depth to the song and it's as if the whole piece was instantly transformed.
"It's really beautiful." Adrien says, and closed his eyes. "This song has always been one of my favorites..."
There's a small wistful smile on his face. Watching him, she couldn't help but wonder what it was that he's thinking about at this moment. What it was that's causing him to make such an expression...
About nearly partway into the song, the girl attempted to play some new chords into the chorus. Though the sudden twist of the song's melody must've been a lot harder for her to figure out. Before long some odd sounding notes started flowing out of her playing, and she began showing hesitation; her shoulders hunched, hands hovering atop the white keys unmoving. Marinette couldn't see her face that was staring at the keys, but when her hands started having the slightest tremble, she could tell she was really struggling.
"Ah..." She wanted to do something, but having next to zero knowledge when it comes to playing the piano, she wasn't sure what she could do. Before she could make a move, a rustling sound met her ears and she looked up to see Adrien already walking towards her. Looking back towards Marinette, he had on an apologetic face as he mouthed a "Please excuse me for a second" to her.
"W-Wait," she called. Of course she was coming too. She wouldn't be Ladybug if she wouldn't help a civilian when they were struggling, would she?
Following after him, she watched as he reached the girl and whispered an "It's alright" in her ear. Surprised, the girl turned to look up at him. He meets her eyes and smiles at her in that gentle calming way he always does before showing her how to do that part she was struggling with. Placing his fingers on the keys, and whispering to her instructions in musical vocabulary Marinette doesn't understand, he plays the same part she just did.
And it's beautiful. It flows and connects. The lift in melody by the uses of different chords strengthens the melody and it rings out, a gentle pleasant tune.
The girl is amazed, mouth agape, and with gleaming bright eyes, she attempts the part again. She didn't get it again on the second try and the beginnings of a pout began to slip onto her face. Adrien laughed.
"It's alright," he reassured her again, and played the same part once more.
After a third try, the girl was finally beginning to get the grasp of it and she beamed. "I'm getting it!" she cried.
Adrien smiled, his eyes softening, and he places his hand on her head, ruffling her hair a little.
"Good job," he laughs.
Marinette was standing just a little ways to the side, watching them, and she couldn't help but smile as well. He's always been a kind person. A kindness that was both so sweet and so gentle. It's something she's always loved about him.
"Though, I guess I'm not really needed here, huh?" She whispers to myself, chuckling just a little.
"Mister!" the girl suddenly says, "Can you play the full song right here? I want to hear you play it!"
Looking a little surprised at first, Adrien then chuckles. "If you so insist, little Princess."
The girl giggles, moving aside for him and he sits down on the old piano bench. Marinette has never really heard him play an actual song on the piano, but after hearing him play that small part earlier, she knows that it's going to be beautiful and she can feel excitement bubble up in her.
Strangely though, before he began, he turned to look at her. Surprised, she mouthed a "What is it?" to him. He gestured with his hand for her to come closer. Confused, Marinette left her spot by the wall and came to his side.
"I want you to hear me play too. It's your first time right?" He smiles as he meets her eyes.
"H-huh?" she stutters, "O-Oh, um..."
She doesn't know what to say. He wants her to hear him play? It must just be because she's his friend right? Swallowing down her embarrassment, she tries to compose herself.
"Y-Yes," she says, "it's my first time..."
"Then listen closely, okay?"
He lowered his gaze to the white keyboard and raised his hands.
"The full original version of this piece has always been nice, but if I were given the freedom to play it however I liked...then..." He smiled in that wistful way again. "I'd like to play it the way my mother had taught me..."
His mother? Before Marinette could have time to react, his fingers touched the keys and his recital began.
A single note, as if being the first drop to break the surface of water, rung out into the cafe. It was followed by several more notes, slow at first and then gaining momentum. His left hand picking up the pace, gathering more notes, his right hand flowing along, playing out the gentle, serene melody. His fingers glided through every note and different chords were struck at every right moment. It was beautiful, so beautiful. He uplifted the chorus at the parts where the melody was supposed to dip, while seemingly adding new notes to the left hand's play, pumping out the accompaniment, making it grander, more magical. It was an enchanting variation. What was a simple gentle song became a heartfelt strong melody.
To describe the song itself, she didn't know how she would. It was gentle, definitely, but it wasn't an outright positive type of gentle, yet it couldn't be described with having sad tones either. It was like a song of realization. Of seeing something, understanding something for the first time, and the gentle aftermath of that realization. However, it wasn't just any realization; it was similar, almost like...
"The realization of first having fallen in love," she whispers out.
The rain outside was still knocking softly on the ground, and this beautiful melody woven with it, it all fit together too perfectly. She smiles, and she watches him; the faint smile on his lips, the focus in his eyes, his hands, and she listens. It really is a beautiful song.
The cafe exploded into large rounds of applause the moment he pressed his final note and his stunning recital came to an end. Wiping the sweat that had formed on his forehead, he turned to look at his audience, and was surprised to find them standing up, clapping, whistling, shouting for more. A little embarrassed, a brush of pink appeared on his cheeks as he rubbed his neck and smiled nervously.
"Thank you..." he says modestly.
The young girl next to him was nearly bouncing in her seat, clapping hard and beaming.
"You're really amazing, Mister!"
The cafe continued to clap for him, and watching him, smiling, chuckling nervously, and blushing, Marinette couldn't help a warm feeling growing in her chest. She's so happy for him. Out of everyone here, she wouldn't be surprised if it was her who was clapping the hardest. He's just so amazing. She didn't know if she could ever compare.
Clapping, smiling, and laughing, she almost didn't notice the light that shone in from the windows had begun to turn a golden yellow, and that a long missed warmth had touched onto her skin.
"So did you like it?" Adrien asked, as he walked her home afterwards. The rain had let up and the sunlight was shining down, golden and warm. Walking side by side, their shadows almost touching, the sunlight warming their skin, it was almost like a dream to her.
"It was beautiful," she said and laughed. "You're really amazing, you know."
"Well, I just so happen to have a really great teacher once," he said, and raised his head to the sky. Smiling wistfully like that again, she took a guess to who he might be referring to.
"Your..." She hesitated a little bit. It feels to be a sensitive subject to talk about. "...mother?"
He seemed to be a little startled at the sudden question and didn't respond at first. Instantly Marinette regretted asking it and was about to quickly apologize, but he suddenly broke into another smile.
"Yes," he said. His voice seemed softer than before. "My mother."
His eyes moved from hers to the ground.
"Your...mother," she repeated. If she remembered correctly, he had once told her his mother had disappeared sometime ago. Still missing even until now...she could only hope she's still alive. Seeing him like this pains her.
"It'll be alright," she says, trying to find the words that would comfort him, yet even she wasn't sure if those words could really be believed in. Nonetheless Adrien still smiled at her, and told her his thanks. Yet, deep down she knew he was still hurting. She wanted nothing more than to help him, just like the time he helped her that day she was stuck in the rain. But what is it that she could do? She is Ladybug yet she isn't at this moment. She doesn't have her yoyo, Tikki's powers, her suit. The confidence that blooms in her when she is Ladybug doesn't do the same when she is Marinette. What could she do as herself? What could she do to bring the confidence she has as Ladybug into the her of right now? She's nothing more than a boring, clumsy mess when she's Marinette...
Pondering, racking her brain for answers, she didn't notice her shoe's sudden slip on a nearby puddle. The next thing she knew she's falling over, rushing air in her face with a mind ablaze with shouts of her idiocy. After heavily bracing herself for the harsh impact that was to come, she was surprised to suddenly find a soft pillow-like landing on her face instead. Thoughts of confusion rushed through her head before she felt two strong hands grip her in the shoulders and realization dawned on her. Looking up from his chest, Adrien's eyes met hers and he asked, with a face of worry all over, if she was alright. Her mind was a mess from all that just happened and she could do nothing but fumble a nod. Heat was already rising onto her cheeks. She lowered her head to hide them, and quickly pulled herself back up.
"Th-Thanks," she said, but her mind was blazing again with insults on her stupidity. Nothing good ever comes out of this stupid clumsiness of hers. She's so sick of it. Cowering, hiding her red face, avoiding his eyes and fidgeting all over; it was extremely embarrassing. But as if out of nowhere, she hears a laugh, soft at first and then gradually getting louder. It was Adrien. He was laughing.
"Wh-What-" she stuttered, her cheeks warming even more.
"Ah, I'm sorry...I just-" But he broke into another laughing fit.
Marinette just stood there, confusion and embarrassment bubbling, watching him laugh. "Was he making fun of me?" she thought, feeling a little annoyed. She tried to take a glance of herself from a puddle to see if at least her face looked okay. What showed in her reflection was a bright red face, just barely covered by her hands, and an expression so exasperated that even she, despite everything, began to giggle. It's so dumb, slipping over a small puddle and then making a face like that over her embarrassment. Yet, it seemed even something like this could bring over a little bit of happiness. Watching him, laughing, his back slightly hunched, his eyes bright, she realized she was able to make him laugh.
"Even though it's with something like this." She felt a little weary at the thought, but still she smiled. In the end, she was able to cheer him up. Maybe her clumsiness wasn't too bad of a thing after all. Closing her eyes, listening to that tinkling pleasant laughter, and smiling herself, it was just like that time, wasn't it?
That day amongst the rain when he gave her his umbrella, and it closed on her. He, who was surprised at first, began to laugh and she too, after a while, began to laugh as well. It was all a part of the first moment that started it all. She'll never forget it. The day she first fell in love with him.
Right now with the golden evening sunlight warming their faces, his laughter along the sidewalk, her smiles, and just being together like this; it all felt so special to her. Moments like these that she never thought she'd be able to see again was all happening right in front of her eyes again. Happiness continued overflowing from her chest and she couldn't even come to describe all her emotions anymore.
After a while, Adrien came to settle down, and he tried to apologize to her. Despite everything, there seemed to be sincerity in his apology though, as if he did regret laughing at her a little. It was amusing seeing him like this so Marinette decided to tease him a bit, pouting slightly and acting as if she didn't forgive him. Adrien began to sweat a little at her reaction, his face a mixture of worry and regret. He seemed about to apologize again but stopped suddenly, having seemed to realize something.
"But," he began to say, "you were laughing too...weren't you?"
Marinette freezes up a little. Having her cover blown, she suddenly breaks out into a laugh. Adrien looked slightly bewildered as he watched her, but soon enough he began to laugh along as well. Just like that, the golden evening slowly began to fade into the dim glow of dusk.
"Thanks for walking me back home," she says, a little worried, "I hope it wasn't too much of a trouble." Streetlamps were beginning to light up as they stopped in front of her parents' bakery.
"Of course not." He chuckled softly. "I wanted to be with you a little longer anyway."
At his words, an instant blush began to form on her cheeks and she turned away quickly. He really should stop saying things like that so easily.
He runs his hand through his hair, ruffling it, reflecting it against the last rays of light in the navy clear sky. She couldn't help but notice how gorgeous it looks reflected inside the grey-blue light of dusk.
"I had a great time today, Marinette." He smiles brightly. "It really relieved a lot of my stress." His eyes begin to move sideways a bit, and he rubbed his neck.
"You may not believe me, but I really am glad I was able to run into you today."
His smile softens and his eyes moves to meet hers. A gentle gaze, fixated on her. She takes a breath. She believes him. She definitely does. If it's Adrien, then she knows what he says is true. She wanted to shout it out, how happy she was to run into him too. But words like these, compared to the overflowing feelings in her chest, could never measure up. Even so she tries to convey it to him anyway.
"It's the same for me, Adrien! Words can't describe how truly happy I am to be able to see you as well."
She wanted to make sure to tell him something else too.
"If you ever feel like you need a break, you can always call me up, you know? I can't guarantee I'll always be available but...but if you really need me then," She gave him a smile, one that came all the way from her heart, "I'll be there."
Her words seems to have caught him off guard. He stared at her, wordless, as if he was rather taken aback. It may have just been a trick of the light but a faint dash of pink seemed to have formed on his cheeks.
The moments that came after this was a blur. In these next instants, she didn't know what came over her. She suddenly took a step closer to him, the bustling sounds of the city fading away, and tip-toed to his height. His face suddenly so close to hers, hers suddenly so close to his. Her clear blue eyes matching his vibrant greens. Their cheeks the exact same color, her heart's pound ringing in her ears. He was so close to her, so close... She pressed her lips against his. She never knew it was this soft.
Although, as quick as it happened, it ended. She quickly pulled away, her face flaming up, heart on the verge of bursting. A sudden rush of thoughts hit her head like a rock and she felt dazed. She didn't want to look at him, but she couldn't help a glimpse.
His face matched the color of hers, and was dumbstruck, mouth slightly agape. Seeing this, Marinette's embarrassment began rising to enormous levels. She needed to get out of here fast.
"W-Well, j-just my l-little way of saying thank you! Haha..." Laughing nervously, she tried to cover it up. "Um."
She bit her lower lip; she wanted to hide so badly.
"See you later then!"
Shouting it out like an idiot she waved her hand in a mega-quick goodbye before disappearing behind the bakery door.
Suddenly left to process what happened by himself, Adrien's face was gradually growing warmer and warmer with each second of realization.
Behind the door, Marinette was panting, her heart's pound becoming overwhelming. It's a good thing her parents weren't in the bakery right now. She didn't know what she could've said to explain the mess that she was.
She takes a breath, and tries to calm down. Feeling for her lips, she places a finger on it. Just then that was her first kiss...with Adrien... She swallows hard. She didn't know how she could possibly face him again after what she did. Seriously what came over her? She mentally kicks herself, but she knows deep down she's actually really happy. Still, this was so embarrassing.
"Augghhh, on second thought I shouldn't have done that at all..."
Moaning, she placed her head in her hands. Her face was like a hot stove burner.
Taking a peek from underneath her fingers, she glanced at the door. The window shades had already been drawn since the shop had closed, so she couldn't see if Adrien was still there.
After listening for a couple more seconds, she could hear the taps of his steps on the pavement as he began to move. The sound became quieter the more she listened until finally, she couldn't hear anything more. Marinette let out a huge sigh. Somewhere Tikki was giggling, but she wasn't in the mood for talking with anyone right now. She touched her lips again. The lingering touch of his lips against hers was still there. The softness, the warmness, she remembers it all. She closed her eyes and began wondering what he could be feeling right now, what he might be thinking about right now... It embarrasses her to imagine it, but she hoped that, even if it's just a little bit, her feelings were able to get through to him. That in his mind today will be thoughts of her.
Opening her eyes, she takes a breath, and then closed them again. Whispering a love confession into the empty bakery, she smiled just a little. That first kiss...was such a sweet flavor.