Anyone who gushed over Paris in Spring had clearly never experienced the city at the aching cusp of June and July.
Heat rolls up from the pavement in leisurely waves. On every street, windows slide open like lips parted to taste the honey-thick sun above. Men stubbornly decked in suits fan themselves with their wilting copies of Le Monde; women relinquish skirts past the knee. In the park, much of François-Dupont’s première class sheds their layers of homework and exams. It is the first day of summer break and there is so much skin.
Freshly eighteen, Adrien is certain this day is made for him. His friends and classmates canvas the park in laughter and silliness, and he can’t help but get caught up in it all. Nino, Alix, Kim and him rush from end to end of one side of the park, kicking around a soccer ball while some of the other girls watch and cheer (most of them are rooting for Alix, naturally). In a rare show of solidarity, Alya and Chloé recline side-by-side on the towels stretched out across the grass, though Alya doesn’t have Sabrina fawning over her and misting her with cool water at regular intervals. Juleka plants herself firmly under the widest, fullest tree in the park and tugs her sunhat (a deep violet) as far down her face as possible. Still, she smiles when Rose plops down next to her with two bottles of Orangina.
“Alright, alright, timeout,” Nino wheezes, coming to a stop a few minutes later. “I gotta take a break dudes, this heat is killer!” He pulls off his hat and wipes his sweat-glossed brow.
Their mini-match paused, Nino books it to Alya’s side. Alix dribbles the ball between her feet as she watches Nino run off. She rolls her eyes and shoots Kim a knowing look.
“Yeah, the heat is getting to him,” she says, “Definitely has nothing to do with that come hither bikini top Alya’s rocking.”
Alix nods appraisingly, eyes fixed on the tiny lavender triangles flush against Alya’s dark skin. If she weren’t his best friend’s girlfriend, Adrien would stare longer too.
Kim actually has to lean down to jab Alix in the ribs. With a yelp, Alix leaps up and smacks Kim in the back of the head, height difference ignored entirely. This must happen often: Kim grabs both of her forearms with the kind of speed that makes Adrien wonder if he has some kind of supernatural abilities. Grip firm, Kim hauls Alix up to eye level. She wraps her arms around his neck and scowls as she hangs there.
“Don’t tell me I’m going to have to challenge Alya to a dare just to keep you,” Kim says. The gleam in his eye tells Adrien he’s only half-joking.
“Ugh, not this time, you oaf.”
Adrien does a 180 when their lips meet with a loud smack. It’s already searing out - he doesn’t need to add the heat from his blush. He spots Nino dragging Alya off of her towel and into the cool of a tree-shaded bench, and decides he’s better off with the PDA he’s already developed a tolerance for.
It’s a good thing, too, because Nino is already peppering Alya’s forehead with kisses. Back to the bottom edge of the bench, Alya reclines between Nino’s legs and tilts her head back to allow for Nino’s affections. She glances down her nose and waves as Adrien approaches.
“See, I told you they wouldn’t keep playing once I left,” Nino says, “I’m just too integral to the team.”
Alya gives a whine of protest when Nino straightens up, but she took raises her head when Adrien sits down on the bench next to them. Her gaze flutters to Alix and Kim, still in the middle of the field but now performing some rather athletic making out that bordered on Olympic-worthy.
“Nah, I think they just found some other goals to score,” Alya teases. She pats Nino’s leg consolingly when he blanches at the sight.
“We don’t look like that, do we?” he asks, turning to Adrien for validation.
Nino’s face crumples in disgust as both Adrien and Alya burst into laughter. After dating through the final years of college and into lycée, the two had calmed their amorous endeavors considerably, though Nino had become no less paranoid and far easier to tease about being over the top. Perhaps it had something to do with the time Alya had accidentally livestreamed one of their more… enthusiastic make out sessions on the Ladyblog from her phone. Alya stopped carrying her phone in her back pocket after that.
“Is there anyone not dating someone else in this class?” Adrien asks. It’s not meant to sound as wistful as it does. He’s happy for his friends, naturally, and he can’t say he has any complaints about his current position… outside of the fact that Adrien can’t discuss it with anyone he knows.
“Well…” Alya starts. She looks up at him with a smirk, and Adrien immediately knows he’s going to regret his question. So much for rhetorical.
“There’s you, of course. Nathanael, Sabrina…”
Alya starts counting off on her fingers, though the list is limited to one hand.
Two years of Alya at Nino’s side have prepared Adrien for this. Adrien wasn’t sure that Marinette even liked him anymore; he’d been flattered, naturally, when Nino spilled the beans about the whole crush, but made it clear early on that he didn’t see Marinette as much more than a friend (though he couldn’t admit where his affections really stood). Sure, his shy classmate never actually confessed her feelings to him, but either Alya broke the news to her gently or Marinette simply got over him. It’s been over a year since she’d even stuttered in his presence, and most of the time she follows Alya’s good-natured ribbing of both boys. They were a bit of a squad, the four of them.
“Alya,” he starts, trying to keep the edge of annoyance from his voice, “For like the zillionth time, Marinette is great-”
As Adrien speaks, his eyes wander, searching the park for the girl in question.
“She’s smart and funny and a wonderful girl,” he continues.
Under the other tree, Rose tips up Juleka’s hat to press her lips to her cheek. Juleka swigs on her drink and fails to stifle a pleased blush. His eyes skip over Chloe, not wishing to draw her attention, and dart just as quickly past Alix and Kim - he’d seen enough of that before.
“But I just don’t-”
He finds Marinette.
The summer light casts her in soft gold, adding a glow to the rosiness of her newly sunned skin. And oh, how much of her is skin: bare from toes to thighs, Marinette stretches her lean legs out along one side of the picnic bench she lounges on. There’s the briefest of interruptions for a pair of bright pink denim shorts that come to an end mid-waist, and then a seemingly endless expanse of uncovered stomach. A faded blue dress shirt, worn and comfortable, has been repurposed, sleeves rolled up to her elbows and shirttails tied neatly just under the swell of her breasts. Her dark hair has been parted into two braids that linger right at her collarbones.
“Don’t-” Adrien fumbles.
Her lips embrace the fleshy curve of a peach. Devastatingly slow, Marinette bites. Juice trickles down her fingers and from the sides of her mouth as she pulls away. One drop meanders to the end of her chin, then plunges off the edge. It lands on her chest and continues its path down, past the smattering of freckles, past the deep vee of her mostly unbuttoned shirt, to somewhere Adrien can only imagine.
Spring in Paris has nothing on this. Adrien can’t be sure when he stops breathing, but he knows he starts again when Marinette, frowning at the stickiness on her fingers, begins to suck on them one-by-one. She carries on with whatever conversation she’s having with Nathanael, even as she pops each finger past her lips. Adrien’s stare meets his, and there’s a brief moment of understanding, of brotherhood, before both sets of eyes return to Marinette’s fingers. He is likely as red as Nathanael, and goes decidedly redder when Marinette presses the peach to her mouth once more. Had he been saying something? Everything is peach and sweet and succulent.
“Don’t?” Alya asks, voice rising curiously.
Adrien startles and tries to drag his eyes away in time. It’s a useless venture - Alya’s eyebrows raise and a smile electrifies her face.
“She looks good, huh?” Alya says. Nino groans and buries his face in his hands but does not stop his girlfriend. “Really buff, too. You wouldn’t think it, looking at her normally, but the girl can lift.”
There’s no pushing his blush back down, so he doesn’t even try. Caught in the act, Adrien can only play along. “Seriously, I had no idea how fit she is!” he says, “Looks like Nathanael has noticed, too.”
Ever the best friend, Nino picks up on Adrien’s intent immediately. “Yeah,” he cuts in, “You think he’s still crushing on Marinette? Seems like it.”
This is what he wants. Adrien has other interests, other priorities, and the last thing he needs is Alya getting the wrong idea again. So the sharp flare of jealousy that tightens his chest as Adrien watches Nathanael watching Marinette is ridiculous. He didn’t like her - couldn’t like her, not like that.
“Haven’t you seen his comics in the school paper?” Alya says with a snort, “Nathanael’s got the biggest thing for Ladybug.”
“Who doesn’t?” Adrien mutters.
Because that’s the thing. Ladybug. He can’t be looking at Marinette, running his eyes up and down her lounging form, and still be true to the love of his life. Marinette takes another bite of her peach and Adrien feels all of the blood in his body shift either up or down. There’s no helping the vision of Marinette’s lips running along his cheek. Adrien stares down that peach and thinks he almost might know what it would feel like. His heart, throbbing, plummets to the pit of his stomach when his thoughts bounce back to a red mask, black spots. Nothing makes it feel less like a betrayal.
The conversation trails to something else, but Adrien hardly follows. Alya must decide to give him a break about it, though he deserves her teasing. Even when he turns away from her, Marinette, in those shorts, affixes herself firmly in the back of his skull.
Once, on a photoshoot, he’d been getting his makeup touched up while his makeup artist and another model, a woman in her mid-twenties, gossiped and tittered over their most recent relationships. ‘I don’t care where my man gets hungry,’ one of them had said over the crown of his head, ‘As long as he comes home for dinner.’
“Hey, bro, you doin’ alright?” Nino asks some time later.
“Yeah,” Adrien pants, eyes fastidiously fixed on his friend, “Just a little overheated.”
Adrien thinks he understands.
Chat doesn’t give her a heartbeat to react.
As soon as Ladybug swings herself up to his side, he pounces, burying his face into the soft skin just below her jaw. He lets his lips thread up and down the side of her neck, relishing in the little gasp she gives when he nips at the lobe of her ear. Ladybug lets him lave her in kisses and nibbles for a few solid minutes, arching her head back and encouraging him to wander. When she giggles, it wells up in his stomach, a happy bubble.
“I missed you too, minou,” she breathes.
He refuses to give her any longer than that; Chat’s hands run along her hips and he crushes her body to his. The only sounds she makes from there are the moans and pants he milks from her with his lips on her neck and his hands along her back. With each press, Chat works to purge Marinette from his mind, and he fails every time: he traces his tongue down Ladybug’s jawline and sees the sweet line left down Marinette’s chest; he grips Ladybug’s hips and envisions pink, pink, pink and skin. It only spurs him on. Chat’s attentions become more urgent. He won’t think about her fingers, or the delicate ‘o’ her mouth made as she sucked away peach juices.
Finally, Ladybug tires of his teasing. With two strong hands, she gets a grasp on his hair and yanks him up. Her eyes are blue and blown wide, and her cheeks reddened with more than exertion. He can see the early pink of a light sunburn, he thinks, underneath the thousands of freckles that seem to have sprung up in force over night. Ladybug looks at him hungrily, like she’d take a bite and savour him forever.
Her plump lips wash over his, once, twice, and then hold fast. There’s no ceremony as Chat’s tongue plunges into her mouth, feeling, tasting.
And then his heart lurches to a hot, painful stop.