Marinette hums to herself as she hauls her bag up on her shoulder and flicks off the lights in her apartment. For once, she got a decent amount of sleep and she actually ate breakfast this morning, so today is already better than most. Now if she can get the stitching on this new jacket done before lunch…

She pauses to check her phone as she closes the door behind her. Nothing surprising, nothing pressing. Alya confirming lunch like she does every week and insisting Marinette bring juicy gossip to the table. Marinette rolls her eyes as she turns the key in the lock. Fortunately, or unfortunately for Alya, work has been drama free lately. A nice breath of fresh air after a tense argument between two other designers that ended in screaming a few weeks ago. For days after, the workroom was stifling and awkward. Marinette is glad she has nothing to bring to Alya. Besides, Alya will have more enough to say on her own.

Marinette looks up in surprise as she spots movement out of the corner of her eye. She blinks as a black cat leaps up onto the sill of the window at the end of the hall. The cat sits up and licks it paw, shimmering gold in the morning light.

"Huh." Marinette stuffs her keys into her bag and inches closer to the cat. A golden cat, that's…odd. She didn't even realize anyone on this floor had a cat. She glances over her shoulder as a door swings shut and someone swears. She sees the cat jump down from the window out in her peripheral vision and run toward the stairs. Marinette takes another step into the center of the hallway with half a mind to follow it.

Instead, someone crashes into her.

Marinette stumbles backward, her legs tangling with theirs. She groans as she hits the floor hard, banging her elbow on the ground. She winces as the person above her apologizes profusely.

"I-I'm so sorry, so sorry, I didn't mean—"

Marinette stares at him, heart in her throat. His face is flushed and his blond hair falls in his eyes, eyes so green that spring itself would be jealous.

He stops talking and she forces herself to look away from his eyes. Instead she studies his coat, long and dark with impeccable stitching. She tries to come up with a price range for a trenchcoat of this quality to distract herself from the fact that his hands are bracing either side of her head and they're incredibly close for two complete strangers.

"H-hi," she stutters.

He blinks. "Uh…hey." His eyes go wide as a meow echos through the stairwell. "Shit!" he whispers, scrambling to his feet. He runs a hand through his hair, making it puff around his head like a halo, and offers Marinette his other hand. She hesitates for a moment before taking it, letting him tug her to her feet. "Nice to meet you, I have to go!" he says as he sprints toward the stairs. He hooks onto the wall and skids as he turns the corner into the stairwell.

It takes Marinette a moment to realize her bag has spilled all over the hallway floor.

She tries to shake the stranger and his sparkling cat from her mind as she picks up her things and hurries to work. She drowns herself in fabric and sketches, but she can't get his face out of her mind. When she picks up a pencil to work on a dress design, she finds herself itching to trace out his profile and the curl of his hair.

Marinette groans and puts her head down on her sketchbook. She's twenty four! She's a grown woman with a job and an apartment and a social life. She should be over the collège crush phase, but here she is. Obsessing over someone she hasn't even exchanged names with. Strangers have caught her eye before, a smile making her heartstrings twinge or bright eyes causing butterflies to flutter in her stomach, but she hasn't experienced something like this in years. All feelings and mush and sudden wooshes of emotion that make her feel like she's floating.

This is ridiculous.

Marinette texts Alya, because she needs to be grounded, stat. She doesn't have time to be moon eyed over a guy, no matter how tall and handsome.

From: fashion goddess
To: the Most Beautiful
Are we still on for lunch?
Like 1000000%?
(I know you confirmed earlier I just need like. Another confirmation sorry)

From: the Most Beautiful
To: fashion goddess
of course!
arent u at work?

From: fashion goddess
To: the Most Beautiful

From: the Most Beautiful
To: fashion goddess
something up?

From: fashion goddess
To: the Most Beautiful
Yes but Im saving it for lunch
The usual?

From: the Most Beautiful
To: fashion goddess
see u in a bit! 3

From: fashion goddess
To: the Most Beautiful
See you then!

Marinette puts down her phone and gives in. When she returns to actual work, the stranger's face covers two pages of her sketchbook.

Thoughts of the stranger vanish from Marinette's mind as Alya practically collapses in the seat across from her.

"Are you alright?" Marinette asks, reaching out to touch the back of Alya's hand.

"I hate my job," Alya groans. She drops her head down on the table with a thump.

Marinette rolls her eyes but pats the top of Alya's head anyway. "You love your job."

"Not today," Alya mutters. "I'm going to set this entire article on fire."

"That bad?"

"Yes. I just— words? Sources? Journalism? It's all horrible." Alya sighs and wallows for another moment before sitting up. "Didn't you have something you wanted to talk about?" she asks.

The stranger's eyes appear in Marinette's mind and suddenly, under Alya's gaze, it all seems incredibly trivial. Marinette knows Alya would willingly listen to her talk about the weather and be completely invested in the conversation, but she can see the way work is weighing on Alya's shoulders. Marinette can feel it weighing on her own. She wouldn't be lying if she said thinking about the stranger was a good way to procrastinate.

Marinette glances down at the menu, even though she already knows exactly what she's getting. "Same as you; work. This new line is possibly going to kill me."

Alya nods in agreement. "Right there with you, girl."

Marinette stands in the hallway in front of her apartment for much longer than she usually does. Usually, she's dead on her feet and ready to sleep. Recently, she's been working longer and longer hours to work on the newest clothing line. But today she's wired and awake. And has been standing in the hallway fumbling for her keys for almost ten minutes.

She shakes her head as she slides her key into the lock and twists it until she hears the click. She's an adult, not a teenager. She needs to pull herself together. She also needs a glass of wine and Netflix. She pushes the door open and flicks on the lights in her apartment. Just as she's stepping inside, the apartment door next to her opens and a tall, blond man steps out, holding a phone to his ear and keeping his eyes cast to the floor as he locks the door behind him.

Marinette scrambles to shut her apartment door, her heart beating in her ears. She feels like she was just caught staring, even though he hadn't even glanced her way.

Right. So her immediate next door neighbor that she never bothered to meet is her handsome stranger from earlier. Of course. That makes sense, she knows almost everyone else on the floor.

She sighs and rests her forehead against the door. "You're ridiculous," she murmurs to herself.

She toes off her shoes, changes into pajamas, and collapses on the couch with her laptop, her tablet, and a glass of wine. The bottle sits on the coffee table in front of her and she's sorely tempted to just drink straight from the bottle. The past few weeks have been overwhelming and dealing with a crush on top of it—

Marinette isn't sinking that low. Not yet.

(She hears Alya in her head insisting that drinking wine from the bottle isn't a low point. She hears Alya say it as she hands Nino and Marinette their own glasses before taking a long sip from the bottle. "I feel like a teenager again," Alya says with a bright smile and knocks the bottle against Nino's glass.)

Marinette turns on the TV and chooses a show to start binging at random. Then she makes herself comfortable with her tablet and computer and lets her mind wander as she draws whatever comes to mind. Dresses and jackets start to form on the blank canvas of her screen. The swoops of skirts and the curls of hair. The straight lines and sharp curves forming themselves into clothes and people and expressions and accessories.

Marinette finds herself using an awful lot of green.