The girls' regular teacher was off sick, and the P.E. department was seemingly in shreds right then. The boys' teacher had a phone call to make, a meeting to attend right before lunch.
Which was of course exactly when Marinette's class took P.E.
Which was why she found herself close to hyperventilating in the Gym Hall, held together only by Alya and wishing against everything she knew that she had packed her longer shorts that morning instead of tossing them in the washing basket the night before.
The classes had been combined, tossed a net bag of dodge balls and vaguely warned not to kill each other, or at least that was her understanding. It was supposedly a treat to be thrown together and given semi-dangerous weapons to annihilate each other.
Alix shouted back, storming up to square off in front of him. Despite her much smaller stature several of the boys around Kim backed away nervously. Alix was simply not to be messed with.
"Beat you once already." Kim grinned, waving the dodgeball in his hands around her, deliberately annoying her.
The boys moved further away, everyone in the hall falling silent as they turned to pay attention. Anybody watching could see the determined scowl that settled on Alix's face, the way she rolled her shoulders back in challenge. This was going to end badly.
"And we beat you once already."
It looked like that was exactly what Kim had been waiting to hear. He grinned, taking a step closer to Alix so that they were practically toe to toe.
"Bet you couldn't do it again." he taunted.
Alix's reply was instant, ready.
Please, please, please, for the love of all that is holy let her not make an absolute fool of herself.
She lurked off to the side, trying not to tug at her Cat Noir themed T-shirt - because it wasn't going to miraculously grow and cover her legs - and watching two dodge balls currently in play keeping her eyes darting between both.
She would not go down.
She would not be the reason Alix fumed for days.
And she certainly would not be the reason for the boys winning.
She could see Alya in the thick of it all, laughing and diving around. She had decided to keep her eyes off of Adrien as much as possible because she couldn't afford that distraction.
The hall was in chaos, a riotous sea of shouts and screams, the squeaks of trainers, the thud of dodge balls hitting the floor, the walls, the students. People were whooping and hollering support to others, slanderous challenges filling the air as people shouted back.
It was crazy.
And yet Marinette found herself not the least bit nervous.
Well, maybe a tad. But the noise was so much like a battle, like an akuma attack without the actual danger that she felt pretty comfortable.
A ball flew out of nowhere, curving right towards her. She dove. She channeled LadyBug as best she could and curled into an elegant roll, surging back to her feet and whipping around to see if she needed to move again. Somebody whooped her name but she didn't look. No time for distractions.
The ball hit the wall harmlessly, rolling towards her as though it were a well-trained dog. She lifted it and grinned, her eyes flicking across the boys.
Who to take out?
Nathanaël was the easiest target by far, standing nervously off to the side and running from anything remotely aimed in his direction. Marinette watched him, and then changed her mind.
For some reason the thought of slamming the orange ball into Nathanaël didn't feel right. She picked out Jean instead, skirting the hall and hoping her classmates wouldn't pay her any attention. Nino was watching her, however, but he called a warning too late and she shot him a wide grin before loosing the ball, sending it flying right at Jean.
It struck his hip and he looked up in surprise, his eyes landing on her. He stuck his tongue out at her wide grin and shrugged to the bench. She scooped up the dodgeball as it rolled back towards her.
Ivan was by far the biggest target but he was also really good at DodgeBall. She thought about it. In the end she went after Nino, laughing at his cry of "Duuuuude!" as he bolted away from her.
She caught his shin, barely legal but allowed. She whooped, offering him a fist bump as she drew up next to him. He fake-scowled but acquiesced, bumping his knuckles to hers in a sigh.
It wasn't long before Alya joined him on the bench, so he wasn't disappointed for long.
Alix was roaring, screaming every time she threw a ball, so completely focused on knocking out Kim that she was ignoring the much easier targets around her.
No one else dared try to take them down.
They were down to just a couple, Marinette surprised to see that Nathanaël was still in. He was busy skirting just as she had been doing, his eyes focused on Sabrina who still hadn't been knocked out. Man that girl had surprised them all.
Marinette wondered if she was taking out her frustrations. The ones she couldn't take out on her psycho BFF.
Adrien was still in, and Kim and Alix and Ivan. They were outnumbered by boys, but that could change. She saw her chance and took it, breezing right up to Nathanaël and simply pressing the dodgeball in her hands against his elbow. He turned to look at her in shock, turning pink when he saw it was her. She smiled gently at him.
He gave her such a sweet smile and mumbled such a quiet "That's okay." that she boldly leaned over and gave his cheek a chaste kiss.
He wandered back to the benches scarlet in the face and quick to pull out his sketchbook. She grinned.
It was amazing how much she felt like LadyBug right then. Activity and competition seemed to suit her, bringing out the bravery that lurked during the normal school day and seemingly bypassing her stumbling lack of coordination. She dodged Ivan's next attack barely, and tossed the ball back at him as she sprang into a run again. It missed, of course.
There were too few of them left to stand around now. She began circling the hall, looping and looking for an opportunity to snag a ball. She saw one lying not far away and veered towards it, barely scooping it up when Adrien breezed past her.
She stumbled, almost falling, her eyes tracking him as he stopped and laughed after her. She'd obviously beaten him to the ball. He looked so good. He was clearly enjoying himself, his green eyes bright and glittering as he shot her a smile before haring off in the other direction. Her heart fluttered and her cheeks grew hot and-
A ball bounded across her path and she barely had time to leap over it.
The growing number of people on the benches were whooping and screaming, each gender trying to out-do the other. She swallowed.
This was intense.
The boys would never let them live it down if they lost to them.
Sabrina was knocked out but Ivan's triumph was short-lived as Marinette took advantage of his victory and launched her dodgeball into his shoulder. He turned with a growl before giving her a reluctant thumbs up and making his way over to sit with Mylène. She had been one of the first out, not that anyone was surprised. Right behind Rose, because Rose hated the thought of hurting anyone with her dodgeball. Ivan had been kind and practically just handed her the ball instead of thumping her with it like the other boys seemed determined to do. Rose had then dropped the thing right into Mylène's waiting hands with a half-hearted whoops that had both of them giggling.
Kim and Alix were desperate to take each other out, had been doing amazingly well at avoiding the balls lobbed their way by Sabrina and Adrien. Marinette did another circuit, grabbing a ball from its perch in the corner and streaking across the room to go for Kim.
If Adrien took them both out after that not only would it be a total miracle but she also wouldn't care much because Alix would have beaten Kim and everybody would know about it.
She drew back her arm and Adrien ran right into her, knocking her ball from her hands and sending it jumping over the floor. She stared after him in startled awe as he drew up a little farther away.
It was such an illegal move, and the girls on the benches boo'ed at the top of their lungs. Marinette felt her face burning as she looked at him looking at her and her heart was racing from the contact. She watched him grin at her, carefree and familiar and she surprised herself.
She grinned back.
You know what?
Crush or no crush.
"You are going down, Agreste!" she hollered, shocking herself and everyone else by the sounds of it.
The whole class reacted. Kim and Alix spared her a glance, halting in their battle for a heartbeat. Their classmates on the bench went crazy. Alya was screaming louder than anyone and Nino was hollering to Adrien to ignore her.
"You Go GIRL!"
"Take her DOWN BRO!"
Adrien looked at her with gleeful green eyes. He was panting and a little flushed and his hair was everywhere and for a second all Marinette could see was her Cat Noir, standing on a rooftop after a fight, looking at her awed and windswept and fearless and her heart pounded hard. But then he had a ball in his hands and she had no time to think before he loosed it right at her.
Adrien watched in a shocked surprise as Marinette leapt.
She had a glint in her eyes that looked so much like LadyBug that he didn't know what to do about it. She sprang straight up, stretching out her arms as if she'd done it a hundred times before and she backflipped.
It was crazy!
There were screams and yells from the benches as people gasped and reacted. Nobody had seen this coming.
This was Marinette for pete's sake!
He had seen that move a hundred times. He dreamed about that move.
She landed on her feet with her arms out to the side as she wobbled, flushed and looking dazed, like she hadn't realised what she was doing. The hall went mental.
And then she stopped his heart.
She lifted her head, her chest heaving as she panted and she shot him a triumphant look, her bluebell eyes sparkling from under the reach of her dark fringe. And she smirked.
And right then and there Adrien knew he was absolutely screwed.
Because he wasn't playing DodgeBall with Marinette.
He was playing with LadyBug.
And he wasn't even surprised, even though he knew he should be. He didn't even have time to be.
She dove for a ball, siding up opposite Alix and launching it at Kim before darting right out of the way without looking to see it it hit.
She skipped, twisting from a shot from Adrien and sticking her tongue out at him as he laughed. His laugh was a joyful sound and made her feel warm all over, and not from running and screaming.
It took an incredibly long time. Adrien ignored Alix completely, doggedly - or should that be cattedly? - throwing ball after ball at Marinette.
At one point he thought he had her until she pushed her palm against the wall and leapt over his throw, skidding to a crouched stop so much like LadyBug that he wondered how everybody failed to see it.
"You'll never beat me!"
She shouted, out of breath and knowing she didn't have much left in her. She bounced on her toes from side to side, watching his fencing footwork. He was grinning, truly grinning, and the resemblance to her Cat was so unnerving. He pushed his wild fringe out of his eyes and she swallowed.
Now was not the time to be swooning!
"You won't beat me, Agreste!" she shouted, feeling the bravest she had ever felt outside of her red suit.
His eyes glinted, and a familiar smirk curled onto his lips.
"Oh, but I might come pretty close, Milady."
She could swear her heart stopped. She froze.
Before Adrien threw his dodgeball and she was running. He chased her, knowing every way she would weave just as soon as she did and she realised they were running a circuit they ran almost every day. He dove to the side when she launched a ball at him, he didn't fall for her fake to the left. He was on her tail and it didn't seem he was even focused on getting a ball back in his possession, too busy following behind her like he did all the time.
Her heart was pounding. From racing, from running, from adrenaline, from spending time with her Cat Noir.
There was a ball in her path and somehow she found the LadyBug grace to sweep it up, hearing her classmates shouting as she changed her direction, the orange dodgeball pitted and important in her hands.
"Hey, Kim!" she screeched, as loudly as she possibly could.
He looked. It was barely a glance, the tiniest crack in his concentration.
But for Alix it was more than enough.
The girls went wild.
Marinette twisted, throwing her dodgeball back at Adrien without warning, trying and failing to feel any sort of disappointment as he dodged it in a Cat Noir manner, releasing a half-startled "Woah!" that sounded more amused than frightened. Marinette couldn't breathe.
Adrien was Cat. Noir. The. Superhero.
The Cat Noir to her LadyBug.
The destruction to her creation.
The humour to her level-head.
The yin to her yang.
Was Adrien freakin' Agreste.
"THEY WON, THEY WON!"
"WE BEAT THE BOYS!" Alix screamed in delight, so loud that no-one avoided her proclamation, her grinning expression triumphant and crowing, the righteous smugness of the long-suffering.
She took a long step towards Kim, who stood exactly where he had when she'd utterly thumped him with her dodgeball, looking startled and dazed as though he couldn't process the fact that he had lost. To the girls. To Alix, of all people.
And at P.E.!
"No! Wait! Adrien could still win us it!" Nino shouted back, before withering under the glare Alix shot his way.
Her ire was short lived as the argument broke out amongst their classmates though, because her grin returned full and wicked as she looked back at Kim once more.
"It won't matter!" she answered, her laughter bubbling over like an over-filled volcano, "I beat you. I won. I told you I would."
Kim was red in the face now, his lips a grim line as they stared each other down. Alix's eyes flashed, her grin growing impossibly wider the longer he remained silent and grudging. Eventually, his chin gave a sharp jerk.
"This time." he acquiesced, and as thought that were their signal, the girls in the class lost it.
Marinette and Adrien stood side by side during the whole exchange, panting and trying desperately not to look too out of breath in front of their partner. Marinette risked a glance at him, when his eyes flicked to her and stuck. Her heart was erratic, her blood racing and adrenaline crackling through her veins. Her face was hot and she was very likely an absolute mess but right then her partner stood beside her, his hair disheveled and everywhere, his eyes gleaming from exertion and from laughing, the round of his cheeks near scarlet.
And it was downright, devastatingly, diabolically gorgeous.
"Still in play! It all rests on you, Mari!" Alya's voice cut through the haze in her head, making Marinette turn back towards the people on the benches.
They all sat there, everyone but Chloé perched on the edge of their seat, faces rapt and excited by the turn of events their normally torturous P.E. lesson had taken. Marinette turned back to look at Adrien, and he cocked his head as a familiar - dear lord it was familiar - smirk wound across his mouth.
"Well, Milady?" he teased, and Marinette bolted.
Not before he saw the grin on her face though.
The bell went to signal the end of P.E and the class shouted in protest for what might have been the first time ever.
Marinette halted in relief, gasping in great gulps of air as she looked over at him. She hadn't stopped grinning since she'd found out, the revelation that should have shocked her silly seeming so blindingly obvious now that she looked at him. He was different as her Chaton just like she was different in her own suit.
He was grinning too, red from running, his eyes wide and gleaming green and she couldn't believe that she had seen those eyes every day and never realised they were one and the same. She straightened to say something as he started to make his way over, their classmates grumbling in the background as they began the tidy up. She didn't get the chance to think of something witty to say because he threw a dodgeball at her right then.
She caught it automatically as it thudded against her chest, several of the boys shouting out only to be shouted back at by the girls. It sounded like a riot was starting up but she didn't take her eyes from him, her face morphing into shock and then into outrage as she stormed towards him, the dodgeball dropping from her hands to bounce, ignored, on the floor.
"That doesn't count, you cheat! The bell went!"
"Ahhh, I believe I win anyway Bugaboo!" he taunted, his smirk winding his lips in that oh-so-familiar way.
She scowled, shaking her head hard.
"No! No way! The class is over! The game is over! You can't just-"
"You're simply the cat's miaow, you know that, Mari?"
"Hey! Don't just change the-"
Adrien swept her into his arms and pressed his lips to hers.
Marinette was deafened by the screaming, the cat-calling, the wolf-whistles. Alya was roaring in triumph, people applauding. There was a pained screech, a disbelieving, high-pitched holler. But Marinette almost couldn't hear any of it, drowned out as it all was by the rush of her own blood, the feeling of fingers splayed against her shoulder to draw her closer, by the feel of fabric curled under her own fingers, her knuckles brushing the skin at Adrien's throat.
By Adrien's lips on hers.
Her legs were weak and wobbly and her heart was beating so fast it felt like a single long vibration and all she could think about was the way Adrien's mouth moved so gently against her own, how much love she could feel in every touch, every kiss.
It was bliss.
When they drew apart Marinette tried to catch her breath, her eyes opening to find that his eyes were on her too, round and green and… excited. It was the most beautiful sight she had ever seen.
"Je t'adore, Mari." he whispered, his voice raw and breathless.
His forehead was pressed softly against her own and the world around them was gone. His whisper coiled around her heart like a comforting blanket and made her feel so much she could cry. Marinette closed her eyes again and gave a breathy giggle. The adrenaline and delight coursing through her was making her senses sharp and every inch of her buzzed.
"Je t'adore, mon Chaton."