Very Good Friend Indeed

Very Good Friend Indeed

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“Hurry, Tikki,” Marinette pleaded, willing her kwami to recharge faster as she hopped from girder to girder of the toppled Eiffel Tower, dodging Chat Blanc’s Cataclysm lasers.

“It’s no use,” Chat Blanc sighed, flicking a Cataclysm pellet at Marinette’s feet, destroying the beam on which she stood.

Marinette screamed as she dropped out of the air, falling and coming to land hard on her left shoulder on the girder below.

Chat Blanc jumped after her, landing in a crouch and then slowly rising. “You can’t defeat me, Marinette,” he informed her resignedly, icy eyes full of so much sadness.

Marinette tried to push herself back up, tried to scoot away, but he was on top of her in an instant, straddling her and reaching down to take her Miraculous.

“Don’t worry,” he cooed. “My wish will fix all of this. I’ll fix it, and then you’ll love me again, and we can be happy together, Marinette.”

Marinette took a deep breath, knowing that it was now or never. She just hoped Tikki would be ready in time.

“Chat Noir, no matter what, you will always be my precious partner.” She looked into his eyes and swore, “I’m going to fix this. I’m going to save you.”

“How?” he chuckled mirthlessly, his ironic smile resembling an open wound. “Giving me your Miraculous is the only way.”

She reached up with the last of her strength and grabbed him—one hand on the back of his head, the other on his bell—pulling his lips to hers in a bruising kiss, catching Chat Blanc completely off guard.

She yanked off the bell, crushing it as she broke the kiss to shout, “Tikki! Transform me!”

It was over in an instant, the akuma purified, its influence melting off of Chat Blanc in a black and purple ooze.

Chat Noir gasped like a man almost drowned as he came to, choking, “Detransformation” before Ladybug could look away.

Adrien searched his surroundings desperately until his eyes landed on her. “Marinette,” he breathed with all the love she had always dreamed of him injecting into her name.

He crawled forward and took her face in his hands, repeating, “Marinette,” like a prayer. “What happened? Are you hurt? I remember we were fighting Papillon, but…”

“A-Adrien,” Ladybug gasped, the word sticking in her throat and almost gaging her. Her world was spinning.

“Marinette, what’s wrong?” He scanned her face anxiously.

“Nothing.” She forced a smile, leaning in to press a quick kiss to his lips. She felt horribly guilty afterwards, like she had stolen something she had no right to, but her partner, the boy she loved more than anything, needed her support and affection, so she made herself be what he needed. “Nothing, Chaton. Everything’s going to be fine. I’m going to fix it. Just hang on, okay?”

Adrien nodded, his eyes soft and his smile trusting. “Okay. I believe in you, Marinette.”

“Mini-Bug! Hurry!” Bunnix called from the open portal, snapping Ladybug back to attention.

“Right! Coming!” she replied over her shoulder before turning back to Adrien. “Don’t worry. I’m going to make everything right.”

“I know you will,” he chuckled, reaching into an inner pocket for a piece of Camembert for an exhausted Plagg.

Ladybug darted through the portal, and everything was a blur until she found herself standing on the steps of the Palais de Chaillot, her friends demanding to know if she’d given Adrien the beret.

“Actually, I’ve been thinking,” she announced, still distracted by the way Adrien had looked at her, by the surreal image of the boy she adored—her partner—sitting among the ruins of Paris.

Alya raised a suspicious eyebrow.

Alix crossed her arms, shifting her weight back.

Rose and Mylène leaned forward in interest.

Juleka waited patiently.

“I think I’ve decided that I need to focus on just being Adrien’s friend,” Marinette informed.

This proclamation was met by assorted, incredulous cries of “What?!”, “No way!”, and “After all the work we’ve put into this, you’re just going to give up?!”

Marinette put up her hands in a placating gesture, trying to hold her friends at bay. “Listen. Just listen. Look. I know. I know, and I’m sorry to have wasted everyone’s time, but I’ve kind of realized that I’ve been going about this the wrong way. I’ve been chasing my own tail trying to get Adrien into a romantic relationship with me, but today something made me think that maybe I don’t know him as well as I should. Maybe I’ve totally been missing some really important things, and maybe the best thing that I can do is put all the time and effort that went into my schemes into being Adrien’s friend and getting to know him better.”

She looked from one friend’s face to the next, hoping she was getting her point across. “I think what I need to do is get closer to Adrien as a friend and focus on being the best friend to him that I can be. I think that’s what he really needs, not just one more girl trying to get close to him in hopes of winning him romantically. If Adrien and I are supposed to end up together, things will work out on their own, but I need to stop scheming and focus on what’s really important. I need to stop struggling and let destiny take its course.”

The girls all rushed Marinette for a group hug.

“Helping you out was never a waste of our time,” Mylène assured as Rose cooed, Alix rolled her eyes and smiled good-naturedly, and Juleka muttered that it was no big.

“I’m so proud of you, Girl,” Alya chimed in, giving her best friend a tight squeeze.

Monday at school, Marinette took a deep breath, stealing herself to face Adrien as he came into the locker room with Nino.

“Hey, Adrien!” she called in what actually managed to be a relatively normal, amicable tone.

He looked at her and broke out in a wide grin that was enough to turn her insides molten. “Hey, Marinette.”

She took another breath and reminded herself that he was just her stupid, dorky cat. Not a big deal. She handled Chat Noir in a skintight leather catsuit all the time, and she could handle him in hot, supermodel, civilian form too.

“Clawesome job at the fencing tournament this weekend,” she praised with a straight face. “I saw some of the footage online. You were pawsitively meowvelous.”

This declaration got Marinette a lot of really odd looks, but she paid them no mind. Her target audience consisted of exactly one person, and he reacted by giving her a wide grin and bursting into laughter, clearly enjoying her lame puns.

“Thanks, Marinette,” he continued to laugh as he came over to stand by her locker. “It’s so nice to feel appurreciated.”

“Glad to help,” she chuckled, getting a paper sack out of her locker and holding it up for him to see. “I actually brought some pastries to celebrate. Did you and Nino have time to join Alya and me for pastries before class? If not, I’ll just give the lot to you, and you can enjoy them at your leisure. I read in an interview that our pain au chocolat is your favourite, so I made sure to include one.”

Adrien’s face brightened, and his eyes went wide with joy.

She could almost imagine Chat Noir’s tail flicking excitedly, his ears perking up.

“I have time,” he eagerly agreed, looking back to Nino.

Nino shrugged casually, happy to go with the flow. “Sure. Pastries sound good.”

As they ate their pastries on the bench out in the courtyard, Marinette enacted the second part of her plan.

She turned to Adrien and smiled amiably. “You know, Adrien, we haven’t really hung out much one-on-one, have we?”

He thought about it for a moment and then shook his head. “No. No, we haven’t.”

“I know your schedule’s really busy, but would you be interested in trying to find some time to hang out?” she inquired, holding her breath.

“Yeah,” he agreed easily. “That sounds great. When did you have in mind? I’d have to get permission, but I’m sure my father would let me hang out with you. He likes you a lot.”

“How about tonight?” she kept the ball rolling. “You have an extracurricular on Mondays, don’t you?” she asked as if she wasn’t a weirdo with his schedule memorized. “Would you be too tired after that?”

“No, it’s just Chinese, but I don’t think my father would let me go on such short notice,” he sighed, already sounding defeated.

“Well…you could always sneak out,” Marinette not-so-subtly planted the idea in his mind. “If you waited until they left you alone for the evening, snuck out, snuck in through my skylight, and snuck back home before they noticed you were gone, you could come over to my house to watch movies and play video games or whatever whenever you wanted.”

She could see that he was hooked even as he narrowed his eyes at her.

“And…how exactly are you expecting me to climb up onto your balcony on the third floor of a building?” he challenged, clearly intrigued.

She shrugged. “Simple. Remember that interview you did a couple months ago where they showed pictures of your room? I saw that you had a crazy rock-climbing wall, a fireman’s pole, and a zipline. There’s no way your father would let you have those things if you couldn’t climb all over them like a monkey. I’m assuming you’re good enough to scale my building and reach the balcony?” She looked at him expectantly.

“A fair assumption,” he granted. “So…if I show up on your balcony at eight o’clock tonight…?”

She nodded eagerly. “We can bake cookies and have hot chocolate and watch whatever movie you bring over.”

Adrien’s face lit up once more until he was positively glowing with excitement. “That sounds epic. I’ll be there.”

Meanwhile, Nino and Alya watched the exchanged with twin grins of amusement, happily enjoying the show as they munched on delicious pastries.

Adrien arrived right on schedule, tapping politely at Marinette’s skylight at eight on the dot.

“Good evening!” Marinette greeted, reminding herself once again that he was just her stupid cat and there was really no reason to be freaking out over every little detail like she had been since school let out. “Come on down.”

Mentally, she smacked herself as her thoughts began to stray at the realization that Adrien Agreste was on her bed.

“Thanks for inviting me.” Adrien smiled cheerfully, not seeming to notice Marinette’s nerves. Perhaps he was just used to it by now. “I’ve been looking forward to this all day.”

“Me too,” Marinette confessed, leading him down from the loft and then into the kitchen. “I don’t know why I never really thought of it before. We should hang out more often.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I really like spending time with you, Marinette.”

Her heart nearly exploded.

“Cookies!” she blurted out. “Have you ever made cookies from scratch?”

He shook his head, taking her outburst in stride. “No. I’m not allowed in the kitchen, so…”

She blinked at him in stupefaction. “Wait. Like…ever?”

He shook his head again, smiling sheepishly. “No?”

“We need to fix this,” she declared resolutely. “Do you want to learn how to cook and bake?”

“Yeah, sure! Absolutely!” he answered enthusiastically, looking about the kitchen expectantly. “Where do we start?”

“Super easy homemade chocolate chip cookies,” Marinette announced, leading him over to the counter where she had already laid out the ingredients. “Mine are the best in Paris.”

He raised an eyebrow, teasing, “Aren’t everybody’s?”

“No,” Marinette scolded, shaking a finger as she informed, “I’ll let you in on a secret. Ladybug’s kwami eats sweets to recharge, and I am the exclusive supplier of her chocolate chip cookies. My cookies are the best in Paris. You’ll see once you taste them.”

“Looking forward to it,” Adrien assured wholeheartedly.

Adrien was a good student and a quick study, carefully following her instructions and copying what she did.

The cookies turned out perfectly, and they enjoyed them with steaming mugs of Marinette’s Dupain-Cheng special hot chocolate while they watched Howl’s Moving Castle.

After the movie, as they were cleaning up, Adrien turned to Marinette and tentatively asked, “Do you think I could come back and hang out again sometime? I had a lot of fun making cookies and watching the movie with you, and I’d like to do it again, if that’s okay?”

Marinette smiled so wide that even the corners of her eyes grinned. “I would love to have you,” she assured. “And, I mean, we have so much left to do. There are so many movies to watch and video games to play, and we could put together puzzles or just sit around and do homework or read or whatever.”

“Play board games?” he asked hopefully.

She nodded. “Yeah. Totally. I love board games. And, I mean, I still have to teach you how to cook, so…really, if you’re free, you could just text me and come on over.”

“Really?” he breathed in amazement, as if her offer were too good to be believed.

She gave his arm a friendly squeeze. “Yeah. Definitely. What are friends for?”

Mondays quickly became movie night. They started off with a cooking lesson and then ate the fruits of their labor as they watched whatever foreign film (usually an animated Japanese movie) Adrien had brought that week.

Fridays turned into video game night. Marinette showed Adrien a wide variety of cool, niche games she enjoyed like Return of the Obra Dinn, What Remains of Edith Finch, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, Soma, and Pyre.

Adrien slowly improved at fighting games like Ultimate Mecha Strike, Super Smash Brothers, and Soul Caliber under Marinette’s punishing tutelage, but they played a lot of cooperative team games too. Their favourite part was exchanging well-meaning smack talk.

They even stepped up their game at Just Dance and managed to unseat Nino and Alya as the reigning campion team.

“Don’t look now, but I think our best friends are stealing each other from us,” Alya snickered, smiling in self-satisfaction as she and Nino watched from the couch while Adrien and Marinette danced, completely in sync.

“I’m good,” Nino assured with a chuckle. “I’ve never seen him so happy. I’m really glad your girl finally got her head on straight around him.”

“Yeah,” Alya sighed, her smirk turning bittersweet. “My baby’s all grown up, and I’m so, so proud of her.

Saturdays were a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes they’d watch anime or do a puzzle, play one of Adrien’s hundreds of board games, or try to learn a card game together. Sometimes they’d do that weekend’s homework, but, whatever they were doing, they’d always get takeaway, typically Chinese but sometimes Greek or Middle Eastern. They split their meals, sharing so that they could try new things.

About a month into their intensified friendship, Adrien started to have family dinner with the Dupain-Chengs on Wednesdays, helping Marinette on her night to cook and eating with Tom, Sabine, and Marinette afterwards.

It was a really important experience for Adrien, feeling like he was part of a family again after so many meals eaten alone.

One Monday several months after their inaugural movie night, they were lying on the couch, Adrien half on top of a lounging Marinette and using her stomach as a pillow.

The credits were rolling, and Adrien couldn’t really remember the contents of the film because he’d spent the last two hours with his head full of distracting thoughts about how soft and warm Marinette was, how good she smelled, how much he treasured every moment by her side.

He took a deep breath and raised his head, knowing he had to say something. They were too comfortable around each other. Keeping his feelings a secret any longer felt like lying, and she deserved the truth, even though he hoped it wouldn’t change anything between them.

“Marinette, can I talk to you about something?” he asked tentatively.

“You can talk to me about anything,” she assured with a smile, running her fingers through his hair and making him shiver in delight.

He gazed at her with soft eyes and a goofy grin. “Yeah,” he breathed. “I really can talk to you about anything, can’t I?”

She nodded encouragingly.

“It’s funny,” he chuckled at himself. “We’ve only really grown close in the past few months, but I feel like we’ve been best friends since forever.”

“I know what you mean,” she agreed with a chuckle of her own.

“I really do feel like I could tell you anything and you’d get it, so…I don’t want to mess this up, Marinette, but I feel like I can’t keep this from you any longer,” he confessed with a pained expression.

Her eyes widened in concern. “What is it? You can tell me.”

He inhaled slowly, meeting her gaze with sincerity. “Marinette…I’m falling in love with you.”

Her lips parted into a silent gasp, but he pressed on before she could say anything.

“I’m still in love with that other girl I’ve talked about before, but I’m falling in love with you too. I don’t expect you to do anything about it, though. Your friendship is more than enough for me, Marinette. I don’t want things to be awkward between us, but it felt like lying to you to keep my feelings a secret any longer, and I never want to lie to you. I don’t expect an answer. I just needed you to know…. That’s all,” he finished quietly, holding her gaze as he waited for her reaction.

Marinette drew in a long breath, gathering her thoughts before carefully giving her response. “Adrien, I’m sorry I never said anything before. I didn’t want to make things weird between us either, and I just felt so blessed to be friends with you… I didn’t want to mess things up, and my reasoning was that you needed a friend more than another girl flinging herself at you, so…” She bit her lip, heart beating so fast in a mix of nerves and elation.

“So,” he pressed, holding his breath.

“So I didn’t say anything,” she continued sheepishly, “but I’ve been in love with you almost from the time we met.”

Her words took away his ability to draw air into his lungs. All he could do was beam at her and try to hold back tears of absolute joy.

But then she kept talking and made it ten times better.

“I love both of you, Adrien. Adrien and Chat Noir.”

He was so stunned, it was hard to get out the words. “You… What? How…? When did you…?”

“About three months ago,” she confessed. “Bunnix took me to a parallel timeline to purify an akuma. It was you, Chaton. I learned your identity in the process, and it made me really think about some things.”

His eyes widened as what she was telling him started to sink in.

“I realized that there was more to the guy I liked—Adrien—than I had originally realized. I felt so bad about turning down your advances this whole time, and I felt really stupid for not being able to see you—Chat in Adrien and Adrien in Chat. So I decided that I really needed to work on our friendship. I decided to stop trying to make a romance happen and to let destiny take its course. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything sooner. More than anything, I just want you in my life, Adrien. I thought concentrating on being a good friend was the most important thing,” she explained, ending with a shrug, turning the floor over to him.

“You weren’t wrong, My Lady,” he assured, inching up to give her jaw a nuzzle. “The effort you’ve put into being my friend is phenomenal, and I wouldn’t trade our friendship for anything. It means a lot that you discovered the identity of your crush and decided I was still worth pursuing.”

“Adrien, I decided you were even more worth pursuing after I found out you were Chat Noir,” she stressed, taking his face in her hands and making him look her in the eye. “You are an amazing partner, completely irreplaceable to me. I can’t imagine fighting by anyone else’s side, so… What are you thinking?”

He giggled giddily. “I am so in love with you, and that is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. What are you thinking?”

She worried at her bottom lip as she stared into his sparkling peridot eyes, so vivid with emotion. “I’m scared of messing things up. What if we’re not meant to be a couple? What if we start dating and something goes wrong and we break up and we’re not able to be friends afterwards? What if we can’t even work together to save Paris?” she spit out without stopping for air, her heart pounding like a crazed killer at the window inside of her chest. “I kind of get the impression in that alternate timeline that Bunnix took me to that our love destroyed the world. That’s a lot of pressure, Adrien. I don’t think I can deal with a screwup that colossal.”

“Marinette,” he cooed soothingly, reaching up to pet her hair. “Clearly you already have since that timeline didn’t become our timeline,” he reasoned. “Besides, if our love was powerful enough to destroy the world, it’s powerful enough to save it too.”

“Oh,” she whispered, heartbeat quickening at his adoring smile.

“I don’t know,” he continued, “but I think the universe is trying to tell me something. It has to mean something that I fell in love with you twice, Marinette, don’t you think?”

“Maybe,” she hesitantly agreed, slowly letting go of her fear and warming to the idea.

“I think you’re worth taking a chance on,” he confessed. “We make an epic team, so I think I want to take the risk and see how amazing we can be as romantic partners. There’s no one else I can imagine by my side, Marinette. …What do you think?” he inquired, gently setting the ball back on her side of the court.

She swallowed hard and nodded. “Yeah. I feel the same way, Chaton. You’re the only partner I’ve ever wanted.”

With a trill of elation, Adrien surged forward, capturing her lips in a much-overdue kiss.

The

End

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