Miraculous Ladybug - The Arcade
(a happy, happy birthday to the wonderful, talented @miraculart, megan you deserve the world, and i hope you had a great day!!)
The minute school was out, Adrien was running. He had a rehearsal at five o’clock sharp, the designer his father had been working with lately tended to get snappy when people were late. Homework also had to be finished before then, and he’d need at least a half hour for that, so that gave him about forty-five minutes to complete the task at hand before Nathalie arrived to collect him. Adrien had begged relentlessly, and the woman must have felt bad for him, so she had allowed him this. Forty-five glorious minutes to spend jamming coins into slots and whirling joysticks until his wrists ached.
Ah, the arcade.
Except this time, Adrien was determined to get there before they showed up. ‘They’ being the nameless person that had spent the last week beating Adrien’s high score on the old Pac Man game in the back. Though he had never caught the person, Adrien was determined to find exactly to whom he had been losing by the mere skin of his teeth. Nearly slamming into the self-activated glass doors, Adrien raced through the small room to the back where the beautiful, battered old machine rested with no one in range of it. Stopping himself, he drew in a deep breath before checking the score list, crossing his fingers, hoping, hoping-damn. The yellow numbers in the first place slot read: 237,567. Just one point more, yet it was enough to make him want to tear his hair out.
“Whoever you are parisprincess123, I will find you, and I will beat you.”
With that, he sat on the tattered cushions and felt the familiar slide of buttons under his fingers and the welded grip of the joystick against his palm.
The rehearsal, surprisingly, had ended early. Everyone had been on their best behavior with the upcoming deadlines for the fashion show, and the designer had been extremely pleased with all of them. Adrien was back in his comfortable, familiar clothes within two hours with time to kill, having finished his homework for the day.
A grin split his face as he slipped into his room and pushed open the pane of one of his windows. Time for half of Paris’ superhero duo to take to the sky.
The thrill that came from running across rooftops and swinging across the Seine with his baton was impossible to put into words. The wind in his hair, the light tread of his feet flying over the ground, the roughness of the ground when he sprung off his hands. He had a destination in mind, one that involved an endearingly clumsy aspiring fashion designer and the familiar comfort of her balcony. His smile turned from exhilarated to fond, reminiscing in the moments he’d spent with that beautiful girl with freckled cheeks and eyes bluer than the sky, both as Chat Noir and just Adrien. She was so different around them both, but something about her always felt so familiar, so at home.
He didn’t expect to see her practically bouncing down the street as he paused on the roof of a restaurant. He reached out a hand, about to call out to her, when she crashed into the man in front of her and he laughed. Maybe that’s why she felt like home, because no matter what, she was still wonderful, clumsy Marinette. It was unusual seeing her on this street though, it was certainly out of the way from the bakery. Making up his mind to follow her a bit, partially to make sure she was safe in this faster paced part of the city, partially out of habit, Chat Noir leaped across an alley to keep pace with her flouncing steps.
She turned the corner then, sauntering down a street Adrien recognized as the one that contained the arcade he’d taken to frequenting. Imagine his surprise, when that turned out to be her destination. Adrien released his transformation before entering the casual atmosphere of the arcade, so as to keep from drawing attention to Paris’ famed Chat Noir and…And what, exactly? He knew Marinette was an exceptional gamer, and she had obviously been comfortable enough with the area to find her way here easily and safely. So why exactly was he still here? Because his love for Ladybug was endless and infinite in its identity, but his traitorous heart was drawn also to the sweet, warm person that was Marinette. He had noticed the similarities between the two and he hoped, though he knew he shouldn’t, that strong, brave, beautiful Ladybug was the same as strong, brave, beautiful Marinette.
He’s pulled from his reverie when he nearly walks into the person standing in front of him, a comical sense of deja vu running through him from seeing Marinette do exactly that minutes before. By force of habit, he had made his way to the back of the building, surprised to see Marinette sitting in front of a game there as well. Not just any game, he came to realize with a dawning sense of horror. Pac-Man.
He watched, rooted to the spot, as her fingers danced easily over the buttons that colored his fingers red from strain, her wrist twisting the joystick expertly, that made his palms sweat. Her posture was relaxed, and Adrien could only gape as her score continued climbing, before reaching 286,429, and Marinette purposefully slid her hands off the console, allowing the crimson ghost to devour pac man and giggling to herself. 286,429. Just one over his score of 286,428. And she had lost on purpose. Which means this whole time, the person that had been beating Adrien’s score by a measly few points every single day, without fail, and on purpose too had been-
The girl jumped in her seat, startled, and turned to face him with wide eyes. He must have been quite the sight too, cheeks flushed, pupils blown, accusatory index finger within inches of her face, and entirely uncharacteristic of the calm, relaxed way he usually attempted to carry himself.
“A-Adrien?” she stutters, though more out of surprise this time than anything else.
He supposes he should have given her a warning of some sort, or tried to explain, but he simply can’t believe it was her all along, sweet, clever, cunning Marinette.
“You’re the one that’s been beating my high score! And my mere points, at that.”
Her eyes seem to grow wider and she turns back to the screen, “This is your high score? I didn’t even know you came to this place.”
She turns to him with a bit of a guilty look on her face, “Sorry if it upset you, I just found it endearing how you always managed to pull your score up in just a day. The determination reminded me of someone I know.”
She smiles then, and there’s that soft look in her eyes that he knows refers to his alter ego, and he feels his heartbeat pick up. It’s a wonder she can’t hear it. That look is for him, for Chat Noir, for the desires hidden inside him that he gets to express only every now and then. He has to stop himself from grinning like an idiot, because Marinette is thinking about him, not realizing he’s standing right there in front of her. He starts, discerning that she’s waiting for him to say something, and offers her a smile, a real one, showcasing his happiness even if she doesn’t know why.
“Don’t apologize, it always made the return more thrilling. I enjoyed trying to beat your score each time,” he makes a rash choice then, a dangerous one, “Princess.”
He winks at her and he sees her eyes widen, know she’s come to associate that name with Chat Noir, knows he could have revealed too much this time, but his heart is torn between her and his precious Ladybug, and he hopes they are one and the same. Then she turns back to the screen, seeing her nickname displayed across the screen and laughs, but she sounds different, not unhappy, but different. He’s about to say something, but then her phone is ringing and their moment is gone, Marinette apologizing to Alya over the phone for forgetting about their English project, bidding Adrien farewell several times while trying to gather her stuff, and he feels the knot in his chest he didn’t even know was there relax. He sees her off with a laugh and a wave, calling out so she doesn’t crash into the air hockey table.
At the very least, Marinette will always be Marinette.
The school bell rings, and Adrien is out the doors, but this time he pauses on the steps. He could run, his forty-five minutes are slowly ticking by, but something stops him. Something makes him wait until the girl with hair like dark silk and eyes like water under the sunlight nearly trips her way down the stairs.
He smiles when she catches his eye and she smiles back, expression bright and sunny, with just a bit of that fondness he knows is reserved for Chat Noir. Maybe she knows, or maybe she just has her suspicions, but either way Adrien can’t bring himself to regret it.
“Marinette, do you want to come with me to the arcade, today?”
She smiles wider in reply and leans closer to him.
“Sure thing, kitty.”
author’s note - LOL i didn’t really know where i was going with this, but i like how it turned out!! i did not know i had a subtle bone in my body, i’m more clumsy than mari herself. anyways, happy birthday again, to the wonderful megan :)