- A/N: I did consider abandoning this story because it'd been so long and I felt guilty, but it turns out I'm too stubborn to let myself quit lol so thankyou so much if you stuck around all this time & I hope this final chapter was somewhat worth it! -
The afternoon of the semi-finals had finally arrived. Marinette could hardly believe how quickly two weeks had passed, but now that it was here, she felt the small thrill of excitement in her chest growing stronger with each passing minute.
The cheerleading squad stood by the sidelines, alternately following the two teams and muttering small pointers to each other. The game had been going for about 45 minutes, and as Françoise-Dupont narrowly missed a goal, the raucous sounds of the crowd's impassioned protest marked the end of the first half.
Almost time, now. Players slinked away from the centre of the gym for a short break, and Marinette began her stretches. Despite her nervousness, she felt unusually brave. She breathed in slowly and resolved to do her absolute best, no matter how it turned out. With any luck (of which she had little) her short burst of confidence would be enough to see her safely through this.
Soon the players returned, and the squad knew it was time to move. They would raise morale for their team sky-high and send them into the second half, eyes blazing for the win.
And with that, they began.
Adrien was speechless. Or rather, he had everything to say but no words with which to express it.
For one thing, he'd had no idea Marinette was so flexible, and, trying to ignore the heat in his face, he knew he wouldn't soon forget. But more importantly, she exuded charm and pure, unadulterated delight strongly enough to leave him smiling from ear to ear before his mind even registered the fact. She was so beautiful.
The entire squad was doing an incredible job, with a deceptively simple routine that incorporated such constant motion Adrien might have felt dizzy, but all he could see was Marinette. Marinette as she twirled, pivoted, jumped, ran to her next position, stamped and clapped in time with nine other girls; only her.
They cheered too, obviously. A simple beat, like clockwork, which roused the players from their 15-minute-break-induced calm, and filled the air with newfound courage.
The routine lasted for about 5 minutes, and then half-time ended and the soccer game continued. Adrien, however, felt light for a long time afterwards.
Another 45 minutes later and it was all over. The small crowd started filing out to go home, but Adrien headed first in the direction he'd seen Marinette leave.
Immediately after the game, he'd determinedly caught her eye from his place in the stands to give her the proudest smile he could muster, but she turned bright red and fled once the doors opened.
Honestly, he felt a little bad for making her so nervous, but he also couldn't deny his embarrassed pleasure at having such an effect on her.
Marinette wasn't hard to find. It took Adrien approximately three minutes to catch up to where she was, not-hiding in their empty classroom. She sat on the second step, apparently hyper-focused on something inside her purse, but as soon as he stepped inside she quickly snapped it shut and smiled nervously at him.
Probably better not to ask, Adrien thought. "You were really great," were the first words out of his mouth. Hadn't he said this before? He felt like a broken record. "I mean, that routine was so good! How long have you guys been practicing?"
The door lay wide open and the chill from outside filtered in, tinging her nose and cheeks reddish-pink as she scrambled to get up off the floor. Adrien chuckled slightly. Everything she did was so endearing it made his chest hurt.
"Thanks, Adrien!" she beamed. "We had a few weeks to get it down, so that's probably why it looked good. It wasn't really hard, but I enjoyed it a lot! Y'know, even though it was easy." It all came out in a rush. She glowed with pride, and Adrien hoped she could see it reflected in his eyes.
Now that he was here, though, the words that he'd spent hours practicing eluded him for several seconds. Apprehension, previously non-existent, washed over him as he tried to speak, failed, then cleared his throat and tried again.
Marinette furrowed her brows slightly, taking a step closer. "What's up?"
"I… uh, I know- I know you like me," he stuttered. Marinette jerked violently.
"A-Adrien, I don't…"
"Wait, hold on, that's not what I meant to say!" he cut in self-consciously. "I- I like you, too, I think. No, I know. That is, I have feelings for you. As well," he finished lamely.
Marinette stood silently, her blush growing deeper. "Wait, you…" she started, then stopped. She blinked in disbelief, her eyes growing wide. "You like… me?"
"Yes, I do," Adrien said, more firmly this time. "And I'd really like to kiss you right now, if that's okay. You don't have to, of course, I was just, uh, if you wanted to…" the words died on his tongue as Marinette held his gaze, her mouth slowly but surely forming a huge smile.
Suddenly she started running, and he only had a split second to brace himself before she threw her arms around him, pressing her face into his chest and hugging him tightly. Her hair felt incredibly soft on Adrien's cheek, and he noted, oddly enough, that it smelled like strawberries.
Then, drawing on every last reserve of bravery in her body, Marinette pulled back, stood on her toes, placed her hands on his shoulders and kissed him. Adrien promptly forgot all about her hair. The only thing on his mind was Marinette's lips, which were currently setting every one of his senses on fire.
It was a chaste kiss, in a cold room, but warmth spread through him like she poured something sweet and strong of herself into his body, and he half expected to grow wings and float off the ground any moment now.
Mere seconds had passed when she pulled away, but his mind continued to replay the memory of her mouth on his as he gazed at her. She was all bright eyes and pink lips and delicate hands, and it was exhilarating. He struggled to catch his breath as her hands slid reluctantly down his face to his chest, coming to rest around his waist.
The sated silence that followed was broken only when Marinette said, quietly, "We won."
Adrien blinked and came back to reality. "You mean the game?" he asked, nearly masking his confusion.
Marinette grinned up at him, eyes shining. "Sure. We won the game."
Adrien laughed and said, "I didn't even notice. I was so focused on you."
Marinette averted her eyes, covering her mouth with her hand so he wouldn't see how overjoyed one sappy comment made her. It didn't work.
Now that they had begun to speak, Adrien remembered something which, though it escaped his notice when he first came in, became apparent during the kiss. He fixed his eyes on the deep-blue cashmere scarf around her neck and cocked his head slightly. "Hey, is that my scarf?"
She flicked her eyes downwards and promptly blushed again. "Oh, yeah! You left it behind in my room and I forgot to return it to you, I'm so sorry."
"No, don't worry about it. It's super cold, you should keep it."
Marinette looked up at him again, the objection clear in her eyes. "I can't do that! It's your scarf, I really did mean to give it back…"
She trailed off as he gently grabbed hold of the scarf's neat tassels, pulled her close again and planted a tiny kiss on the tip of her nose.
"But it looks so much better on you."
And soon, Marinette was far too preoccupied to argue.