Marinette sighs, too used to Chloé's preferred dry, biting enunciation of her full name to be surprised or pissed. Nowadays she just resigns herself to getting another unprovoked belittling from Paris' self-proclaimed princess.
"What is it this time, Chloé?" she asks tiredly.
As to be expected, Chloé's nose is up in the air as her sharp eyes look down at Marinette. Her arms are crossed on her chest as well—typical.
What's not typical is how three full seconds pass without Chloé saying something condescending.
Another beat passes.
"Did you," Marinette starts, squinting up at her classmate, "need something…?"
Chloé jolts in surprise—strange—and opens her mouth, closes it, opens it with an inhale—
Marinette raises an eyebrow.
—and closes it again.
"Nothing," she spits through gritted teeth before swivelling around and stomping to her seat.
Marinette frowns, turning back to her tablet to prepare for the day. Though puzzling conversations with Chloé—or from Chloé, rather—aren't entirely out of the ordinary, this one is beyond Marinette. Especially with how her stance was stiff and forced, as opposed to the usual way her posture declares that she owns the room and the rest of Paris; and how—
Marinette is the one to jump in her seat this time, her everything on high alert and already in lovesick mode at the single blessed syllable that had the pleasure of leaving the lips of one Adrien Agreste.
The same Adrien Agreste who is hesitantly standing by his own desk as his eyes continue to focus on Marinette.
She grips her stylus tighter. It's all she can do to strangle a giddy screech back into her throat. A little squeak might have escaped, though.
"Mornin', dude," Nino intones from his seat.
Adrien absently waves a hand in Nino's general direction, but his eyes remain on Marinette. A dusting of pink is on his smooth, beautiful cheekbones.
Marinette keeps her lips tightly together. She can practically feel Alya mentally nudging her to say something—
"M- Ma- Mor— Morning GOOD!"
A brilliant red overtakes Adrien's face, and then he's swiftly sitting down and flipping his bag open and rummaging through it for his tablet (probably).
Alya physically nudges Marinette this time.
"Girl, what did you do?"
Marinette only shakes her head, confused.
In hindsight, Marinette realizes that Adrien doesn't really join in on post-akuma attack discussions. His usual response is acknowledging how scary it was–such humility!—how he's glad everyone's safe—so kind!—and agreeing that Ladybug is really cool. Other than that, he only smiles, except for that one time that he asked Marinette about Chat Noir and he touched her shoulder–he touched her shoulder!—and it took all of whatever willpower Marinette had, to not melt into a happy puddle in the middle of the locker room.
Now, Marinette is summoning whatever willpower she has to not melt into a happy puddle in the middle of the classroom in front of her whole class, because Adrien isn't just smiling and agreeing that Ladybug is cool. He's positively beaming and is on his third—maybe even fourth—verbal paragraph about the merits of Paris' spotted heroine.
"And she really makes sure everyone is safe, you know?" he's saying to Nino and Alya, who nod with some amusement. His eyes find Marinette's before he continues with a gentle smile, "She's simply the best."
Marinette smiles back, and she's sure she looks like an absolute dork, but she can't bring herself to care.
"Gee, Agreste," Alya pipes up beside her, "I should get you to write a guest article on the Ladyblog one of these days."
"Oh please," comes Chloé's voice as she deposits herself on the edge of Adrien's desk. "If anyone should be interviewed for your little blog, it should be me."
Alya's muttering of, "Oh boy, here we go," is drowned out by the beginnings of Chloé's haughty monologue.
"I, Chloé Bourgeois, happen to be Ladybug's #1 fan and am knowledgeable in all things concerning my hero. Not surprising, really, with how close we are! She has more than once come to personally protect and keep watch over me. I am well acquainted with her grace and strength and wisdom, in the many times she came to my rescue—"
"Well," Adrien chuckles, "if you didn't provoke everyone, then you wouldn't need so much saving, ey?"
Chloe stops, proud smile dropping to the floor with a crash.
"A— Adrien!" Marinette gasps. True though that statement is— "That— That wasn't very nice!"
Adrien winces. A small part of Marinette winces, too, for putting such an expression on him, but a larger part of her knows that it was necessary. It was just right.
"Right." Adrien rubs the back of his neck, sheepish. "Sorry, Chlo."
"Forgiven," Chloé allows, a smirk back on her lips. "Don't worry, Marinette, I'm made of tougher stuff than to be offended by that."
Marinette wasn't really worried. She chose to keep that bit to herself.
"Now, Alya," Chloé continues, "about this feature article, it should really be me instead of little Adri here—"
"Now, hold on—"
"Come now, darling, leave it to someone with actual interactions with Ladybug."
"Hey, she saved me, too!"
"She saves everyone, that's her job."
"And she went to my birthday party!"
"The Bubbler was right there, it wasn't because—"
"She spent a whole afternoon in my house—"
Marinette can only watch as both of her affluent golden-haired classmates abruptly stop, almost nose-to-nose with each other by now, their brilliant green and crystal blue eyes narrowed at each other.
Suddenly, Marinette has absolutely no idea what's going on anymore.
"I should commission you," Chloé decides, sitting down on the bleachers beside Marinette as if she were Alya or something. She nods to Marinette's notebook, saying, "Those are really good."
"Uh… Thanks," Marinette replies, grateful but also a little dubious. Compliments from Chloé Bourgeois are a frequent thing now, but it's all still more than a little strange. "They're just doodles, though."
"Impressive doodles," Chloé amends with a scoff. "Are those winter suits?"
"Yeah…" Marinette smooths a hand over the edge of the page, a little self-conscious and half-expecting a derisive comment. Old habits die hard. Still, Chloé has thus far been agreeable, so she elaborates, "It's been getting a little chilly; I was wondering what Ladybug and Chat Noir would look like if they had winter versions of their suits."
"Oooh!" comes a voice on Marinette's other side. "May I see?"
Marinette only barely stops herself from jumping to the ceiling as Adrien Agreste sits down beside her. One of his shoes brushes hers as he does so, and Marinette feels goosebumps erupt from the point of contact to the ends of her pigtailed hair.
Old habits really die hard.
"Hello, Adrikins," Chloé greets with an edge in her voice. "What brings you here?"
"I go to school here, Chlo."
"I meant right now. At this very moment."
Adrien shrugs. "I just happened to be passing by and I heard 'Ladybug and Chat Noir', and we all know I'm the biggest Ladybug fan."
"If we're talking about Ladybug fans—"
"Guys," Marinette interrupts, recovered enough to hold up a hand. "We've been over this."
Adrien chuckles, turning his attention back to Marinette's sketch. "I'm a fan of your designs, too, Marinette. And I'm sure Chat Noir would be one, too, if he saw these!"
"Oh! You think so?" Marinette asks, beaming.
"Just make sure there aren't any feathers," Adrien tells her with a wink. "I heard he's allergic to them. Sends him into a sneezing fit."
"Kind of like you?"
"Exactly like me."
Marinette blinks at the emphasis, but before she can think any more of it, Chloé huffs loudly, as if to remind everyone that she was there.
"Talk of gross sneezing aside," she drawls before shifting to an excited tone, "Marinette, there's a gala I'm attending next month. I must have you design my gown. Isn't that more profitable than doodling hypothetical outfits for Ladybug's sidekick?"
Marinette closes her notebook with a thud, whirling around to pin Chloé with sharp glare.
"Chat Noir is not her sidekick. He is indispensable, he is a hero as much as she is, and they are a team."
Marinette could have kept going, could have passionately listed all of the reasons why Chat Noir is so valuable. But she remembers that Chloé, even while akumatized, recognized Chat Noir's importance. (The remembrance of "Look at her! Without Chat Noir, she's worth nothing!" echoes in her mind.)
"Right," Chloé yields through a grumble. "Of course they are."
Marinette says nothing more and opens her notebook again to go back to sketching.
She doesn't look back at Adrien, but if she had, she would have seen him looking so happy, he could have kissed her.
"Let's take a selfie."
"Because I said so, that's why."
"Hey, Marinette! I'm going to my dad's Creative offices after school. Would you like to come with me?"
"I got here first!"
"But I ordered first!"
"Ordering from the doorway does not count!"
"Yeah? But my order is for the mayor's household!"
"Yeah?! Well, mine is for a very important fashion show!"
"HA! Models eating croissants— don't make me laugh!"
"You know," Marinette interrupts, and really, it's ridiculous how half of her school life now involves interrupting these two specific classmates of hers, and now it's reached her parents' bakery, "you can both order."
"Both is NOT good!"
"We wouldn't want your father to be overworked, after all."
"Y—Yeah, that! So take my order first!"
Marinette has seen many strange things in her life, but seeing Adrien Agreste and Chloé Bourgeois—both born of Paris' most prominent families and therefore raised to possess poise and high-bred manners—elbowing each other in a battle to clear the classroom doorway first, has to be one of the strangest of them all.
"Chloooooo," Adrien whines, his vowel garbled as Chloé's palm smooshes his cheek against the doorjamb. "Let go!"
"You let go!" Chloé counters, struggling to get past the barricade of Adrien's arm.
Nino shakes his head in his seat, chin in his hand as he watches in wonder. "Dude, this is way beyond bizarre."
Behind him, Alya snickers, holding up her phone and recording a video of the whole thing.
"Girl, I ask you again. What did you do?"
"I haven't the slightest idea," Marinette groans, "but whatever it is please make it stop."