Ahhh sorry this took so long! Hope it's worth the wait.
I'm gonna be forthright with you guys; I have seen every episode of this show exactly one time, and that was many moons ago now. Forgive me if I've misremembered the floorplan of Marinette's bedroom, but the floorplan I have in my head is incredibly relevant to the scene at hand so I'm gonna describe it real quick in case I have it wrong, so you can picture it too. Basically her room is the attic, and inside her room is another baby loft area that separates her bed from the rest of the room, with a ladder to climb up there or something. And there's that skylight window that sits above her bed. Yes? No? Regardless, that's what we're going with here.
Empty Spaces ㅡ Part Three
As a hot-blooded teenage boy, Adrien had spent his fair share of time picturing what it might one day be like to wake up with the love of his life in his arms. Sometimes in the early morning he'd lay there for longer than he should, watching the dust swirl in the golden sunstreams filtering through his windows, picturing her messy black hair sprawled out on his other pillow. Sometimes he'd spend so long imagining it that when he glanced over to his side he would be surprisedㅡjust for an instant in timeㅡnot to find her sleeping there. Breathing gently. Her eyes were always closed in the daydream, her hands curled beneath her chin and her shoulders warmed by the rising sun. Warm and soft and happy.
So when he woke up the morning after mistakenly falling asleep in Marinette's bed, if he'd been given some time to imagine the scene prior opening his eyes, then that recurring daydream is what he would have pictured.
But, as it were, he was not given time.
This is what happened:
A secluded wood in Norway. Walking aimlessly, and snow all around in every direction. A stinging cold that they've wrapped themselves against with long coats. Shallow footprints than fan out like ripples, and snowflakes that ring like bells. Descending, slow. A cold winter sky that tastes of nostalgia. Ladybug is here too, but she's forgotten her mask at home today. Just now she's discovered the native fairy cats with elation. Frosty breath rises before him, carving an aerial trail in the forest. He knew she'd like it here. She perks up when he calls out to her, cheeks pink from the cold. He wants to show her where his family once went toㅡ
Real life barreled through the slow, pleasant dream like a derailed train, and he blinked in the morning light, flying through the airㅡno, fallingㅡandㅡ
He gasped for breath as the hardwood floor next to the bed connected with his back and knocked the wind from his chest. But Marinette's hand immediately covered his mouth, muffling the sound of his desperate and confused pursuit of oxygen. Life and memory caught up all at once. Last night. Last night. He must have fallen asleep before leaving! And if Marinette's wide awake look of complete and utter terror was any indication, that had been a monumentally grave mistake.
"Marinette?" A bemused voice called up from somewhere out of sight below them and to the far right, in the general direction of the trapdoor that separated her attic bedroom and the rest of the house. Adrien gasped, causing Marinette to tighten her grip on his mouth even further. That was her mother! "Are you alright? Where are you?"
Adrien and Marinette exchanged the most panicked look of all time as the unmistakeable sound of footsteps carried across the room. "I'm fine!" Marinette squeaked, shooting upright so that her head poked up over the edge of her bed, just enough to let her mother see where she'd gone off to.
While she was looking the other way, Adrien couldn't help dragging his eyes downward. She had literally tackled him off the bed to hide him from sight and was therefore straddling his waist where they'd fallen. Plus, the state of her sleepy dishevelment (the messiest of bedheads, the tiniest of shorts, and a too-big shirt that was falling just so off the crest of her shoulder) was the cutest thing he'd ever seen. If he wasn't so terrified he would have sighed like the lovelorn sap he was.
"I just fell off, that's all," Marinette rattled off with feigned nonchalance. "You startled me!"
"Silly goose," Sabine laughed. "It's only nine o'clock and you're already scraping your knees. Whatever am I going to do with you?" The footsteps had reached a stopping point, and the way Marinette's hold tightened even harder over his mouth led him to believe her mother was now ascending the ladder to join them in the loft.
In a moment of pure unadulterated horror at this latest plot development, Marinette squirmed on top of him like beached fish, and fuck if it didn't feel really good. His own hands flew to her hips to force her to hold still, to keep her from moving any more, from making this situation any worse than it already was. If she didn't stop doing that immediately there was going to be a Big Problem. They locked eyes again and he conveyed the issue as best he could, whereupon Marinette decided the best course of action was to animorph into a tomato. Adrien furrowed his eyebrows at her pleadingly, painting as much of an apology as was humanly possible given only the upper half of his face and .2 seconds to apologize with.
"Well," Marinette said to her mother faintly, though she was still looking at Adrien. "You could always just throw me in the trash with the other bad batches..."
That comment almost got him caught. He had to bite his lip so hard to stop the laugh from busting out that it almost bled.
At that point Marinette gathered the scattered remains of her wits and scrambled to her feet. Adrien tilted his head to the right and saw Sabine's slippers coming into view on the other side of the bed. As Marinette climbed back onto the bed, he caught his breath in his throat and slid sideways into the thin dusty space beneath the bed frame. Springs creaked above him as Marinette wiggled to and fro on the mattress, presumably making as much noise as possible to cover his retreat. Below, Adrien watched the white slippers edge slowly around the bed as the two women talked, and almost had an aneurysm when his eyes completed the circuit ahead of her and saw that his backpack lay directly in her path on the far side of the bed. A split second before Sabine turned the corner to the patch of floor where he'd so recently been suplexed, he hooked his foot through one of the straps and tugged it underneath the bed with him.
With ever-mounting fear he watched as the slippers neared his face and then stopped a few inches away. Mother and daughter continued their morning chat and Sabine joined Marinette on the bed. They talked and talked, and it seemed to him that Marinette was trying to get her mother out of the room but couldn't find her way to an excuse that wasn't suspicious.
Ten endless, agonizing minutes into the meandering conversation, Adrien happened to glance toward the ladder (maybe if he willed it hard enough Sabine would leave so he could make his shameful escape) and almost died. His orange converse. They were right there on the floor at the top of the ladder. In plain sight!
Sabine had walked right past them on her way to the bed!
It was another ten full minutes before Sabine finally stretched and rose, her words turning to breakfast and the coming workday. All the while Adrien had been glaring lasers at his incriminating shoes, reaming himself internally for leaving them so far from the edge of the bed. They were too far to retrieve the way he did his backpack. He tensed as Sabine's slippers descended to the floor on that side of the bed, but then she was walking, and she walked right past them. She didn't notice! Ha! Haha!
As she climbed down the ladder, Adrien slid back out from under the bed on the distal side so she wouldn't spy him when her face was level with the floor of the loft. They were almost home free when the unthinkable happened.
"Marinette?" Sabine wondered absently. "Whose shoes are these?"
Shit! No! No no no!
"What shoes? Oh, those shoes?!" Marinette answered, her voice like a tea kettle left on fifteen minutes too long. "Um, uhㅡthey're Adrien's?" she admitted weakly. He could almost see her desperate shrugging as she sought a viable excuse for the presence of a boy's shoes in her bedroom this early on a Saturday morning. "I uh… He let me take them home so I could embellish them? Yeah. He liked what I did to mine so I told him I'd do his too."
"Oh, I see," Sabine chuckled to herself. "That's clever, Marinette. All your father ever did to catch my notice before we dated was buy me flowers," she giggled. "Customizing his shoes is definitely a unique way to grab his attention, I'll give you that."
"Mom," Marinette groaned out of sight.
"What? I'm not stupid," Sabine said, and began her descent down the ladder. "You keep a picture of the boy on your desk, dear."
"I have a picture of Alya there too! And you and Dad, for that matter!" Marinette defended.
"Mhmm," Sabine agreed, though it sounded somewhat sarcastic (even to Adrien, who didn't know her very well).
Only when the trapdoor clicked shut behind her did Adrien's frantically beating heart allow him to breathe freely. Wiggling out from under the bed, he peeked up at Marinette (Ladybug he reminded himself with unholy glee), trying to school his shit-eating grin into something a little more serious and contrite. But he was pretty sure Marinette saw straight through it to the shit-eating grin. With a muted whine, she flopped over backwards onto the bed and pulled the tiger pillow over her face.
"You keep a picture of me on your desk?" he whispered.
"I have so much ammunition to combat that with," Marinette mumbled from beneath her tiger pillow force field. "Do not test me, Adrien, I swear to god... I just… Give me a sec to wake up properly. I need a minute to wrap my head around this."
Adrien gave it freely, though he was too afraid that Sabine would walk back in to climb up on the bed and join her. (Or Tom, his brain supplied as a grave addendum. Huge, broad-shouldered, more-muscles-than-was-strictly-necessary-for-a-baker, kind-hearted but could-probably-kill-you-if-the-need-arose Tomas Dupain. It didn't matter that Adrien was a superhero. If Tom walked in and saw Adrien here he might as well start building a coffin.) So he sat on the floor with his chin resting on his forearms on Marinette's rumpled bedspread, patiently waiting for her to wrap her head around this. He wondered if she was trying to wrap her head around him being Chat or him accidentally falling asleep in her bed. Or them kissing. Or him being madly, desperately, dangerously in love with her.
"Um, Mari?" he whispered when he couldn't take the silence any longer. "I'm sorry I fell asleep here. Honestly, I was going to leave right when you fell asleep, but you were on me, and you just looked so…"
He pressed his lips together, mind straying back to what had already found its pedestal as one of the most blissful memories of his life, right up there next to 'meeting her' and 'finding out who she was' and 'kissing her.' They hadn't said much after she figured him out, and he'd realized from her surprisingly calm reaction to it all how truly tired she was from the whole Alya-fiasco. So he encouraged her to close her eyes. We can talk more tomorrow, he'd said, kissing her on the forehead as she made her sleepy way even further into his arms, her head coming to rest on his chest and her arm curling around his stomach. So comfortable and elated was he that he couldn't bring himself to slip out from under her when her breathing evened out with the telltale pattern of slumber. Just a couple more minutes, he'd told himself, wanting to savor this for as long as he could.
Aaand then it was morning. Whoops.
"Happy," he ended, too distracted by the memory to come up with a better excuse. And I was happy.
Slowly, she rolled onto her side, still refusing to remove the tiger from its perch on top of her, but just far enough so that he could clearly see her. The look on her face was thoughtful. "You're really him, aren't you?"
A tentative nod was all he could give her because her sudden thoughtfulness was setting him on edge. Was she having second thoughts? Please god no.
"I'm sorry, I just… When you came over last night, I hadn't slept in almost two days," she explained. "I was so tired, and it was all so surreal. You kept saying theseㅡthese things that made me think of Chat, and I was seriously starting to question my sanity. I thought maybe I was dreaming. But I wasn't." She furrowed her eyebrows lightly from beneath the tiger, as if he was an optical illusion and she was still trying to make sense of him.
Adrien tilted his head onto his cheek, squishing it against his hand. "No," he agreed. "You weren't."
"Did you really mean all that stuff you said?"
Snapping upright with a bit of indignance, he muttered, "Of course!"
"I know that," she reasoned, a mote of embarrassment creeping into her voice. "I guess I just meant, now that I'm not suffering severe sleep-deprivation I can fully appreciate the magnitude of this. You are Chat Noir and you figured me out and came over to my house and we kissed."
"Can I be honest?" Adrien asked, and she opened her mouth to reply but her words died in her throat when his fingers curled around her closest hand. "I planned that speech way before I found out you were Ladybug. I mean, you were kind of the first friend I ever made in lycée," he admitted shyly. He wasn't sure if she even knew that. "And I always liked you and looked up to you and wished we were closer. You were precious to me, way before I knew you were also the girl I was in love with. I just didn't know how to reach you. You were like thisㅡthis light in a window at the top of a castle."
"Oh my god," Marinette deadpanned, and he wondered if he'd said something wrong. "Is that why you call me Princess?"
Adrien felt his blush creeping down as far as his neck. "Maybe."
He must have said something right after all, because she finally decided to emerge from her hidey-hole underneath the tiger pillow. She pulled herself onto her stomach so that she was facing him, her face inches from his. His lungs ceased function. He tried to open the task manager to reboot them, but then she mirrored his position by resting her chin on her forearms and he decided to go ahead and give breathing up as a lost cause. The tip of her nose brushed his. She was so close he had to pick one of her eyes to look at, and found himself nearly drowning in it.
"Can I kiss you?" she asked.
Yep. Drowning. Throw the guy a lifesaver or kiss him goodbye.
"I think I'll literally die if you don't," he mumbled. She started to giggle and couldn't stop, even when she pressed her lips gently to his, which for some reason just killed him. Sighing in the most lovesick of ways, he trailed his thumb across her cheek.
Tom. That was Tom's voice! Abort! Abort!
Adrien hit the deck and Marinette sprung to her knees to ward off her father.
"You up yet? Breakfast is getting cold."
"Yes, I'm getting up now! I have to change first though so be gone. I'll be down in a minute okayloveyoubye!"
Once Tom had departed with a hearty chuckle, Marinette leaned off the edge of the bed to survey Adrien where he lay prone on the floor with a guilty, terrified look. "Not that I want you to, but you should probably go. I don't wanna test our luck any further."
"Agreed," he breathed shakily.
"But uh… What do you think about coming back in a little while through the front door?" she posed. "You come come with me to visit Alya, if you want. She should be in recovery from the surgery by now."
"Yes. Brilliant. Sold." Honestly, he'd agree with anything she said at this point, as he was still riding on the adrenaline-high of kissing her.
"Okay," she giggled. "I'll tell my parents you're picking me up in an hour."
When he came back in fresh clothes to pick Marinette up, she was downstairs in the bakery stocking fresh croissants in the display case. It was a good thing her parents didn't see him straight away because when he saw Marinette standing there in a ruffled floral skirt and a cropped white top, her hair done up in a lovely braided bun, leaning over the display case with that beautiful smile of hers, anyone with a pair of eyes would have seen how much he loved her. "Good morning, Marinette," he called out, perhaps laying the cordiality on a bit too thick. "Ms. Cheng," he added politely when her parents turned around to greet him, trying not to think of their almost-confrontation this morning. "Mr. Dupain."
His discomfort must have been obvious to Marinette because she snatched up her purse and steered him right back out of the shop before her parents could properly intercept him. However, on their way out when they were waving goodbye, Adrien caught Sabine staring thoughtfully at his feet. He followed her line of sight down to his shoes.
...The orange converse.
Maybe she didn't notice, he tried to convince himself. Maybe she didn't connect the dots. But not three minutes later, Marinette's phone buzzed. She hummed to herself at the text. "Now what does that mean, I wonder?"
Oh no. "What?" His heart was still hammering from the glint in Sabine's eye.
"My mom says, 'we'll talk about this later,'" she read.
"Oh, uh… I don't know," he shrugged manically. They'd cross that bridge when they came to it. Or burn it down maybe. Or run? Running was definitely an option.
The sky was cloudless today, a brilliant markless blue, and the air around them warm and placid. Saturday traffic was in full swing and the street alive with pedestrians and cyclists alike. Yet, the flow of motion had comforting calmness to it, like a swift but silent river. Adrien and Marinette slipped into it easily.
They walked along in silence for awhile, but not of the awkward kind. It was warm. They still hadn't had time to actually talk about this directly, between Marinette falling asleep on him and the rude awakening and his hasty departure. But instead of hanging between them heavily, the words still unspoken felt more like a destination they'd yet to arrive at, and it was okay to Adrien that there were still a few more obstacles to pass before they could get there. Marinette seemed okay too. More than okay, in fact. As she walked there was a distinct bounce in her step, and the looks she sent his way every minute or so both set him at ease and sent his heart on without him, leaving his body and soul far, far behind.
As they stopped at an intersection about halfway to the hospital to wait for the light to change, Marinette leaned on the pole and blinked up at him happily. "I like this," she said.
A large family arrived at the street corner too, talking amongst themselves. Adrien moved closer to Marinette to make room for the newcomers at the sidewalk's edge, watching as the light changed from green to yellow to red. "It's not weird?" he wondered as they stepped into the road together.
"I didn't say it wasn't weird," she laughed. "It's hella weird. But I like it."
"I like it too," he agreed softly. Her lightly swinging hand twitched in surprise when he brushed his fingers on hers, but then she understood and let him in gladly. "You look really pretty today," he added before he could stop himself.
From here he could see Marinette fighting a sudden smile. "You look pretty too," she blurted. "Wait, no, I meant to sayㅡshut up!" she huffed indignantly at the slaphappy grin on his face.
"You can't tell me to shut up," Adrien drawled. "I'm calling the police."
That got an instant cackle out of her. "God, minou, you're so…" When she trailed off, he turned to her with an inquisitive quirk of the eyebrow. Her fingers tightened around his. "Y'know, it's funny. The day I fell in love with you, Adrien, it was because you subverted my expectations. I thought I had you pegged as a jerk but then you were wonderful to me and it changed everything. I knew, then, that there was someone amazing under all that practiced poise you put on for the world. That there was someone hidden inside you, who no one had ever met before. And I… I wanted to meet him. I wanted it so bad that no matter what Chat said to me or how much I liked it, I didn't want hear it. Because I was already waiting for someone else. But…"
She broke off laughing, and skipped in front of him so that he had to jolt to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk lest he bowl over her. The pedestrians behind them cut around them, sending them the stink eye for the sudden stop. Adrien didn't care. All he saw was Marinette, still hanging on to his hand as she cocked her head at him, glowing with curiosity.
"But that hidden Adrien I've always wanted to meet was Chat Noir," Mari said, and the way she said his name was like pure sunshine. Was this what swooning felt like? "And I've already met him," she added quietly. "He's already my best friend. How lucky am I to have gotten my wish before I even wished it?"
There was nothing he could think to say to that, besides, "Almost as lucky as me, lovebug." With a quick wink he pulled her along again.
When they got to the hospital they separated, as Nino had just arrived as well. Adrien didn't really want to explain this to Nino quite yet, and Marinette seemed to be on the same page because she put a bit of extra space between them, blushing hard. Together the three of them went to the desk to speak with the attendant.
"There's only one visitor allowed in at a time," the woman said immediately, as soon as they'd given her Alya's name and room number. "Who wants to be first?"
Marinette's hand shot up, but Adrien reached around her shoulder and gently pushed her arm down. "Nino can go first," he offered.
Nino furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, while Marinette narrowed her eyes murderously. "Um," Nino worried. "Bro. I think Marinette wants to go first."
"No, it's fine," Adrien insisted before Marinette had a chance to speak up, and eyed her with a colorful 'please just trust me' look. "Go ahead, Nino, we have all day to see her. No worries."
"Yeah," Marinette ground out, and folded her arms with impatience over her chest. "Sure, whatever. It's fine."
Only when Nino had disappeared into the password-locked double doors with the attendant did Marinette round on Adrien with the appropriate level of sass the situation called for. And honestly, he didn't blame her. "Okay, you have five seconds to explain why I'm not going first before I get a broom and chase you out of here like the mangy cat you are."
Five seconds was enough. "Nino is head over heels for her," Adrien spat out quickly. "I know it's not easy to tell with his chill exterior but this whole thing has been crushing him. He's been totally devastated and besides," he added breathlessly, then leaned in to whisper the final blow in her ear. She leaned in toward him despite herself. "I doubt the one visitor at a time rule applies to Ladybug or Chat Noir…"
When he stood up straight again an evil smile had begun to spread across her face. "Did I tell you that I love you?" she said. "I'm pretty sure I said it but let me say it again." Squishing his cheeks between her hands almost painfully, she beamed up at him. "I. Love. You. Let's go find a dark closet."
He followed after her out of the waiting room, grinning lazily to himself. "Just so you know," he said, "I could have made so many innuendos about what you just said, but I'm choosing not to because I'm nice like that."
"No, it's because you value your life," she called back.
In the end they settled for an empty stairwell, and double-checked that there were no security cameras mounted anywhere in the landing before calling Tikki and Plagg out of Marinette's purse (where they'd been doing god only knows what) to transform them. When the firework display of transformative light faded from the walls, Adrien was left staring at his lady. But it wasn't Ladybug standing there in the familiar costume he knew as well as his own. It was Marinette Dupain-Cheng, looking back at him with awe and delight. It was amazing how readily he saw her there now that he knew the truth. How little the spots changed his view of her. She might as well be wearing a witch hat or a wizard cloak, for all the difference her costume made now that he knew who was standing here in front of him. This was the girl he'd held all night, and kissed just this morning, and walked through the city hand in hand with. The girl he loved. The light in the castle. She was everything.
And she was his.
"What?" she wondered up at him, suddenly shy.
"Nothing," he said numbly. "It's just that it's one thing to know it. Seeing it is just… Damn."
"Yeah," she agreed with a giggle, and shook off the trance to bounce toward the door with uncontained excitement. "Alright, come on, loverboy. Let's go give Alya a heart attack!"
As it turned out, Alya didn't have a heart attack.
Let's just say it was a close call.
Writing these two characters is a never-ceasing battle with the English language to find new ways to describe the physical manifestion of embarrassment. That said… 'animorphing into a tomato' might be a personal best.
So the reason this too so long is because I got caught up starting another story. 'Strange Aeons.' Serious stuff! My most exciting project to date! If you liked this, check that one out okayloveyoubye.