Marinette Dupain-Cheng has been in love with Adrien Agreste for a year and five months. She has also been Ladybug for that long, and has learned courage in the strangest of places.
So when the second Valentine’s day of their acquaintance draws near, Marinette is sure and determined that this year she’s going to do it.
Alya is nothing if not encouraging. She’s the one who comes up with the treasure hunt idea, when Marinette says she wants her confession to be private, but has no way of getting Adrien where she wants without setting off the rabid fangirls by being seen pulling him away. She even recruited Nino to the game, having him plant clues in his friend’s bag and fencing equipment and even his pocket. Each note was written as a poem; in the same fashion as the one last year that imitated his own.
Adrien had seemed flushed, and excited, eagerly reading each piece of paper like it was a real treasure map, exclaiming when he found another one, and hoarding them jealously. It made Marinette flush happily, to see him so into the game. It gave her hope that he’d, perhaps, like the game’s originator too. At one point, he gave a knowing smile that had gone straight to her chest like a warm, caffeinated arrow, sending her heart into overdrive. ‘She’s so creative,’ he had sighed, folding the paper carefully. Marinette had also noticed that he was keeping each and every one of the clues, and Nino had reported in an SMS to Alya that the signs were good; real good. Nino suspected that Adrien knew who the sender was, and was anything but reluctant.
The final note took him to the music and ballet room in their school. There was a large piano, lid raised invitingly, a gilded stand mirror and long, polished wooden floors. It was one of Marinette’s favourite rooms to escape to if it was empty. The large bay windows let in light throughout the day, so that she could sketch quietly, imagining that music was being played behind her - usually, imagining Adrien was playing it. It was a little bit indulgent to tell him here, but in truth, it was also convenient. Very few students in school took music and ballet, and Marinette had easily memorised the schedule in which the room was available. The setting was beautiful, and, conveniently, empty when she needed it after Adrien’s fencing lesson, so it was a natural choice.
She waited, almost holding her breath, hidden the deep doorway of the adjacent art room. The school attendants had already switched the electric light on this floor off, so she was positive that he couldn’t see her. Once he was inside the room, she’d sneak to the doorway and walk in as soon as he read the final note. It was identical to the one she’d sent last year; except for one tiny detail. Tikki almost vibrating in her pocket with excitement, her kwami nearly as eager as her to see her happy.
When Adrien rounded the corner, her last note in his hands, Marinette almost squeaked, ducking into doorway and covering her mouth, Tikki pressing down on her hands to help. Adrien was using his phone’s flashlight, and even in the harsh white light, Marinette could clearly see his flushed cheeks and shining eyes. Adrien really looked like he wanted to meet her … oh, her heart was beating so fast!
He arrived at the door and paused. Marinette peered out of her hiding place, watching as he took three deep breaths, put his hand on the handle, hesitated and then pushed in. Light from the room flooded the corridor, and Marinette ducked backwards, counted to ten, then tiptoed to the door.
She’d made the location of the last letter, on the keyboard of piano, obvious by tying a red heart-shaped balloon to the score stand right above it. Adrien made an eager beeline towards it, as fast as he could without flat out running, but still paused to look around the room - presumably to see if the writer was there. Holding in a giggle at how cutely eager he was, Marinette barely dared to breathe.
The envelope made a neat rip as he opened it, so, so carefully. His eyes ran over the text and he flushed deeper, a laugh escaping and a smile splitting his face.
‘“… my heart belongs to you”’! Oh, it’s her!’ He said to himself excitedly, ‘it’s the same poem, it’s got to be … Marinette?’
Everything about the girl outside froze. The only difference between this poem and the one from last year was that she’d signed it. And Adrien’s excited, vibrant form had shifted into confusion.
‘No,’ he said, and now Marinette’s pattering heart felt heavier. Because there was stark, naked disappointment there, unmistakable in the brightly lit room as his eyebrows rose and fell to convey dismay and displeasure. ‘What? No, this was supposed to be Ladybug…’
He sounded almost like was about to cry. He certainly sounded severely disappointed. The flush from his cheeks was all but gone, the shine in his eyes dulling to make way for a different sort of shine as he blinked tears away.
Oh. Ladybug had put that smile and flush on his face. Marinette had only taken it away. Oh.
Adrien didn’t notice the flip of a pair of pigtails, or the very light patter of ballerina shoes as they raced down the darkened corridor beyond the picturesque, well-lit room. Plagg did, though, and looked after them with a very heavy heart.
His poor kitten didn’t even know what he’d done. Plagg sighed sadly; it was going to be one of those cycles, then.
You all thought these concepts were only going to be fluffy and happy?