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Much to Luka's relief, there were no further issues between Marinette and the red string as time continued to pass. Much like with the pictures, it seemed that fate had limitations; lines and restrictions that even it couldn't go beyond. His best guess was that it could only fight Marinette so much without getting worn down, leading it to the state it was in now after its desperate attempt to stop her from breaking away from Adrien.
He shuddered whenever he thought of what it'd be like had he never known about destiny's effect on her. Marinette may have given up on fighting fate altogether, convinced of what was meant to be without actually realizing what that meant, and he - being none the wiser - would've blindly encouraged it. The song sheet would've been changed to fate's liking, and they would've both played along without a single thought being given as to how things were being changed.
But as things were, they could fight back, and the extra help he'd provided was enough to override the push that fate had against her. They could test its limits together, and Luka couldn't be prouder of Marinette for being strong and determined enough to tackle something that she hadn't even been aware of, at least not consciously. It was as Sass had said - that it was up to the person as to whether or not they could overcome it - and in that respect, Luka really shouldn't have been worried about anything.
That being said, the string wasn't gone exactly. It was severely damaged, of course, but it remained uncut and acted as a constant reminder that things weren't over yet. So long as the string was still around her neck, it would heal and continue to do whatever it could to lure Marinette back into the relationship that it had chosen for her. Luka also knew that, unfortunately, this would be where his usefulness ended.
The rest was up to Marinette. He'd helped so far, but she was the only one who could get rid of the string for good.
He believed in her.
It was about a week after Marinette's confrontation with Adrien that Luka's phone chimed, indicating that he had a text from Marinette. He lifted the device and peeked at the message, reading,
M: Hey, I want to talk to you in private.
M: It's nothing bad, I promise!!
M: Maybe a little heavy, but not bad...
M: Got any ideas for a place?
His brows rose, both in surprise and curiosity. They'd talked about things before "in private," but it was the first time she was asking to do so directly; all other times had been by the natural flow of the conversation. His mind wandered, wondering what she could've possibly wanted to talk about.
Not that it mattered though, as his answer would be the same regardless and he replied accordingly,
L: Mom and Jule are out for the day. Meet you on the Liberty, on the part of the deck with all the plants?
The response was almost instantaneous.
M: Sounds good! I'll meet you there! <3
His heart briefly leapt up in his chest at the completely unprompted heart she'd sent. He swallowed, staring down at the screen for a moment, then realized that he was leaving her on read by not doing anything. She even seemed to be typing, as if to apologize for it.
After a few taps, he'd sent back a quick '<3' and the typing on her end stopped. He'd reassured her.
Abandoning his phone on his bed, Luka blushed and wandered aimlessly around his side of the bedroom, purposefully letting his thoughts drift away from the heart and to what Marinette might've wanted to talk about.
She was clever - that much he was certain of - and while the possibility was there that she'd somehow figured out about the red string, her assurance that it was "nothing bad" put that concern to rest. Kitty Section seemed equally out of the question for the opposite reason; it wasn't something that classified as particularly "serious" or something that required a private discussion.
As he walked, Luka caught a flash of pink out of the corner of his eye and glanced over, seeing the shawl Marinette had given him resting on his amp. He caught himself smiling just at the sight of it, any thoughts about the what or why of their meet-up vanishing as he walked over to pick up the shawl.
He put it on, chuckling to himself at how Marinette might react seeing that he was still happily wearing it, probably freaking out because it was broad daylight and he was already wearing three layers on his upper body without the shawl. Honestly though, if it weren't for the fact that he didn't know if he had her "permission" to wear it consistently, he'd happily adjust his look to give her no right to complain about it.
Picking up his guitar along the way, Luka headed for the upper deck to await Marinette's arrival.
Luka had barely gotten partway through a new tune before he heard the distant, familiar rhythm of Marinette's footsteps. Having been sitting on the flower-patterned couch above deck, he looked over his shoulder to see Marinette heading towards the Liberty. He set his guitar aside and got up a little quicker than normal, heading out to meet her halfway. It was only once he actually got to really look at her that he paused, noticing the blue fabric around her shoulders, and she must've noticed the pink version on him too given how she stopped.
She was wearing her shawl as well. He'd planned to surprise her, but this...
Part of him noted that he should've expected it.
"Hey," she greeted with a light wave, her eyes flicking down to his shawl.
"Hey," he greeted in return, and just as softly.
They traded loving smiles, her crossing the gang plank and him putting it up after the fact to prevent anyone from coming by or interrupting them. He then turned and saw her peeking out from the greenhouse-esque area of the deck, her hips wiggling as they made eye contact before she hurried off deeper into the Liberty. He grinned, growing even more curious at her intriguing mix of enthusiasm and what was either eagerness or nerves.
Following after her, he saw her sitting there on the flower-patterned couch, seeming incapable of staying still as she rapidly patted her lap. The red marks from the red string's effects had faded a while ago, and he was happy to see that the string - while closer to her neck than before - hadn't seemed to affect her as of late.
It was the only unfashionable thing she wore. Everything else was utterly gorgeous, though he may've been shamelessly biased.
"Sorry," she said, waving a hand vaguely at herself. "I thought maybe it might be better if I waited, but then that just made me impatient, and I didn't want to think up a plan because I'm so sick of plans and I know I can do it without them. I'm not really nervous - I mean, of course I'm not, it's you - but I'm still me so—" She waved both hands for effect.
He chuckled happily. "There's nothing wrong with you being you, Marinette." He walked over, sitting down next to her with a reassuring smile. "So, what did you want to talk about?"
"Right! Yes..." She pumped her fists up, then turned away from him to take a breath. Rubbing the back of her neck, she explained, "It's a lot of things, actually. I've never had someone who knew my—you know—but now that you do, I had a lot to think about about everything and where I'm supposed to go from here."
He merely smiled and let her ramble, given that she seemed less anxious and more processing.
She looked back at him, continuing, "I debated forever on maybe pretending like I wasn't talking about you to make it easier, or going into this big speech about everything that happened to try and warm up to it, but then I thought about it and I realized that I didn't need it because of the me I can be around you and no one else. You're you and I'm me and I..."
She trailed off, her gaze dropping down to the cushion, or at least that's what Luka thought before he saw her shift and move her hand over. He glanced down, following the movement to his own hand resting on the cushion, and his heartbeat picked up as her fingers slid underneath his palm. She raised his hand and held it as if it were something fragile and precious, her other hand coming up to rest along the back of his hand as well.
The smile dropped from his face at the change in atmosphere, which turned immensely intimate as he looked back up, coincidentally at the same time that she did. They made eye contact, Marinette's gaze intensely fond in a way that had him swallowing.
"...I like you, Luka," she whispered, pulling his hand closer to her. "I really, really like you. I'm in love with you."
To say Luka's heart skipped a beat would've been an understatement. The band stopped, the amps were unplugged, the stage lights blew out, and he was left in hypothetical darkness outside of the single spotlight focusing on the only member of the audience he cared to give attention to, her gaze giving him just as much in return. He could only blink at her, struck silent for any lyrics he could muster in the moment.
She, meanwhile, continued bashfully as if she hadn't already overwhelmed him, "I wanted to be sure before I said anything, but—I have been sure for a while. I don't even know why I haven't been sure for longer, but I am now and that's what matters," She gave him a soft look, eyes half-lidded and fond. "A lot happened ever since the school year started. Hawk Moth started sending his akumas, I got my miraculous and had to start being Ladybug, and suddenly I have so many people around me—" A half-hearted chuckle escaped her. "—for better or for worse."
She took a deep breath - Luka was a little jealous, he was pretty sure he hadn't breathed in the past minute or so - then she let out a sigh, smiling contentedly and staring down at the hand she was holding. She brushed her thumb along the back of it, which to him felt like a caress directly to his heart.
"You're the best thing out of everything that happened, Luka; the best thing that ever could've happened. When I imagined the best friend I wanted by my side when I was little, they were so much like you: thoughtful, caring, patient, and with every bit of respect I'd ever want." She blushed beautifully, adding with a shyer tone, "I'm just lucky enough that I fell for you too."
Her lips pressed together, seemingly in thought, and then she gently placed his hand back where it'd been before. He stared at her, still riding an emotional high but confused by the sudden lack of contact.
"But... I-I also know that it'd be really hard to date someone with a job as a superhero. I'm really thankful for everything you said to me that day - up on the Eiffel Tower - but even if you felt the same way about me, it's not fair of me to ask—" She made a vague gesture. "—that, of you. I didn't get a choice in being Ladybug, but it's something I have to deal with to keep Paris safe. I wouldn't want to force you thought the same thing just so I can date you."
He frowned, recognizing the conflict in her expression. She'd clearly been thinking so much about this, even with no plan, and she'd even seemed to make peace with this idea.
"Besides—" She smiled at him in reassurance, even though it was a little bittersweet. "—your friendship means everything to me, Luka. I wouldn't ask you to wait until I'm not Ladybug anymore, or put yourself through dating someone who might have to run off even if you'd know why. I don't like what being Ladybug took from me, but... just being here, and being so close to you, is enough. I don't need to date you to love you."
The reminder that she loves him shouldn't have sent his heart on another ride, but it did, though simultaneously aching at the fact that she was still cautious with relationships. He wasn't surprised exactly, given all the complications and disappointments she'd dealt with, but that didn't make it hurt any less.
She was putting Paris over herself again, willing to set aside her own happiness if it meant not "bothering" anyone with how she felt. It was a trait he loved and hated at the same time, because he would've eagerly frozen Paris in time for a day or two just so she could sleep for a night without worry over having to wake up to an akuma attack that she'd need to stop. Had it been her desire for them to wait, then he would've happily done so, but she was sacrificing herself again.
And that was not happening.
The resolve helped him find his voice again, his hand reaching over to rest on hers as he began, "Thank you, Marinette, for everything. For telling me, for feeling out my song when no one else could, and for trusting me all this time."
She ducked her head, becoming a bit shy at the gratitude, but she was smiling.
"My feelings haven't changed. I'm in love with you too." He chuckled at the way her eyes darted back up in surprise at that, but his mouth dropped to a frown to make it clear that he was serious. "And I don't want you to give this all up for anything, not even Paris."
She frowned in return, puzzled at first and then looking like she was ready to argue with him. "L-luka..."
"Even if it wasn't me that you wanted to be with, I'd be playing the same tune. I want you to be happy no matter what, and you shouldn't have to let go of anything for someone else." He squeezed her hand. "Don't you think you've done enough for other people?"
She opened her mouth, but stopped when his gaze urged her to genuinely consider his question. She looked away, brows furrowed, and seemed to debate with herself before she asked in reply, "I can't. It...it'd be selfish to—"
She made eye contact with him, and he brought her hand to his chest to make his conviction on the subject clear.
"You know I don't like to ask for things from anyone, but please, be selfish," he pleaded. "No one can play your instrument but you, and if you think you need to be selfless for me, then don't, because I've wanted this for so long." He felt her stiffen in shock and continued without hesitation, "Not just being with you, but seeing you do things for you. I'm not afraid of Hawk Moth, or what we'll have to do to make everything work. I'll do anything because you're worth it, Marinette, and I want to." His voiced lowered, lingering somewhere between hope and promise. "Do you want it too?"
He could tell that a part of her had wondered about getting this far, but - like him - hadn't actually thought they'd get there. The fact that she'd honestly been so bundled full of energy just at the idea of confessing to him, while expecting nothing in return, made his heart do another flip in his chest.
Finally, Marinette's shoulders eased, her hand adjusting in his so she could squeeze it, returning his earlier gesture. He smiled at her, then let go of her hand when he felt her pull away.
It didn't stay back for long. She beamed at him, her arms thrown forward as she dove for him. "Yes!"
There was an audible 'snap' when she moved, but if she'd heard it at all, she didn't seem to care about it. He was in a similar boat, grinning wide with his eyes closed as he returned her hug. She was somehow even warmer than usual, and her hair tickled his ear when she buried her face into his shoulder, a happy noise escaping her that he hoped to hear more of in the future. There were definitely talks and plans to be had concerning the future, but they were officially a couple now and they were content to live in that moment.
Then, just as Luka thought that was all his heart could take, he opened his eyes and caught sight of a familiar shade of red, though not on Marinette's neck like one might expect. It was there, on the floor of the Liberty, not stretching far enough even to reach them.
He gaped at the sight, blinking rapidly and feeling out with his senses to ensure that it was indeed the red string laying on the deck like that. His grip on Marinette unconsciously went slack in his surprise, and Marinette let out a confused hum before putting her hands on his shoulders and pulling back enough to look at him.
His eyes dropped to her neck, still in disbelief and needing to make sure that what he was seeing was reality. Indeed, the string had been undone, and there was no evidence that it'd been there at all given that the marks had healed. He was in a daze, placing a hand on her shoulder while his thumb brushed along the skin where the string used to be.
It was really gone. She was free.
Marinette tried to follow his gaze, still puzzled, then peeked back up with a hint of curiosity in her expression. "Is there something on my neck?"
His heart swelled with emotion. Breaking out into a wide, elated grin, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back in to continue the hug they'd broken before.
"No," he whispered in reply, his voice nearly cracking from the sheer relief he was feeling.
Marinette didn't understand - she couldn’t, really - but she took his joy for what it was and squeezed him back without complaint. They stayed like that for a while, the world slowly coming back into focus but the moment remaining strictly theirs. The wind rustled the leaves from the tree nearby, the cars and buses drove along far off in the distance, and a bird perched upon the rainbow weathervane to chirp idly, the noises trying but failing to compete with the sound of Marinette's relaxed breathing.
There was nowhere he'd rather be.
After both not enough and too much time hugging, they'd retired to the lower deck of the Liberty. It wasn't exactly a place for a "normal" date - even in comparison to their one-chair cuddle on her balcony - but the superheroine of Paris and her "born into chaos" crush didn't exactly fit into normalcy, and it ensured that they'd stay in their one-on-one time.
They practically danced around each other in the kitchen, Luka getting drinks and Marinette grabbing snacks. It reminded him of the time that she'd wanted to talk to him about everything that'd happened to her, only now the mood was lighter and they were writing quite the song.
They settled their things on the counter, then took seats next to each other on the barstools. It was pure bliss and he couldn't stop smiling, nor could she judging from her expression.
"S-so..." Marinette began daringly, drumming the fingers of one hand on the counter while the other hand brought a snack to her mouth. She put the whole snack in, chewing slowly in an apparent attempt to give him time to mentally prepare for whatever she was thinking. Then, she swallow, asking, "Am I your girlfriend now?"
Luka snorted, not caught off guard but amused by how polite the question was. While he slid his drink closer with one hand to take a sip, he used the fingers of the other to drum on the counter, both replicating and replying to the little tune she'd made earlier.
"If that's what you want," he replied easily, then shrugged with one arm. "We don't have to be anything right away."
"No!" she insisted. "I mean... I want it." She gestured between them. "I want to be your girlfriend. I just didn't know how—um—official you wanted to be?"
"Thank you for thinking about me." He smiled warmly at her. "I'm in this with you at whatever tempo you want to play. I know our song will be amazing no matter what."
She shifted in her seat, blushing faintly, but wordlessly accepted the answer.
Unable to help himself, he asked in return, "Am I your boyfriend?"
"Of course," she said, averting her gaze from him and waving him off bashfully.
He chuckled giddily.
"A-and besides, I have a few... ideas now."
"Ideas?" he prodded with a grin, leaning towards her to make his curiosity known.
She glanced back at him, obviously trying to contain herself, but grinned as well and spun in her seat, facing opposite of the counter as she spread her arms out. "I was just thinking—!" She paused for effect. "—because I was so worried about having to run off as Ladybug if I was dating you, but maybe I don't have to! I mean, I still would, but you could come with me!"
His brows raised. "As Viperion?"
"Yeah!" Despite her excitement, she grew a little shy and settled her hands on her lap. "I'd probably have to work something out with the guardian, but—I think it'd be nice. You could be there, and then when everything is over, we'd go off together like I'd be taking your miraculous, but then we'd just... head back to our date?"
He took a moment to absorb the scenario, imagining the incredible chaos of it all, then sighed with a fond smile. They were barely a few minutes into dating and her mind was already racing with ideas for how to make everything work.
He wanted to hear it all.
"That'd be great. I'd love that," he assured. Then, after a second of thought, he asked, "What about Chat? He won't be bothered by it?"
He didn't mean it, of course, and his tone said as much. Marinette's love life was none of Chat Noir's business, and it wasn't as if they'd be dating within the mask. Any jealousy Chat'd feel would be baseless.
Marinette frowned, turning in her seat to face Luka fully. It was hard to tell if she'd taken his teasing seriously or was building up to something, but she nonetheless replied, "I didn't choose Chat."
Her hand reached out, Luka watching it to see her rest it lightly upon his. His eyes darted back up to meet hers again, noting the soft yet intense gaze.
"I chose you," she whispered, her conviction on the matter clear and without room for discussion.
He opened his mouth to reply, perhaps to say that he chose her too or that he was glad to be chosen, but all the came out was, "Marinette..."
Her eyes sparkled as if he'd said everything anyway with just her name, her fingers twitching against his hand. He turned his own over so they could hold hands properly, and the atmosphere shifted to something even more intimate than before.
Marinette looked away, covering her mouth with the back of her hand to suppress a giddy fit of giggles, then met his gaze again. "Ah, Luka... can I—"
"Yes," he responded immediately, knowing the melody before she'd even sung it, simply because it reflected his own.
She beamed at him, tugging his hand towards her, and he leaned in to meet her halfway. They tilted their heads, eyes lingering open just long enough for their lips to meet, at which point nothing else mattered but enjoying it.
Luka had never believed in soulmates before seeing the red strings connecting people together, and even then, his beliefs hadn't entirely changed. The relationships people crafted with each other were so much more important to him than something that destiny had strewn together without anyone else's knowledge. He didn't fall for Marinette based on that, nor did she for him, and even their first meeting was entirely by chance, with everything afterwards progressing solely through their own choices and wants.
And that was how it should be; how it would always be for the two of them. They chose each other, and destiny had no power over either of them.
For Liv 💚 @blue-eyed-cutiepatootie
“Um, this is for you.”
Dean looks up from the research he’s been unsuccessfully trying to focus on for over an hour to find Cas standing by his side. He’s holding a small brown parcel in his hands and his eyes are firmly glued to the floor of the bunker.
Dean leans back in his chair and pushes the hefty book away from him, relieved to have a distraction. He looks at Cas curiously, feeling a smile tug at the corner of his mouth “What, you mean like a gift? You know it’s not my birthday, right?”
Cas manages to tear his gaze away from the floor he seems so fascinated by to look at Dean and, damn, is that nervousness in his eyes?
“Yes, I know. Is it inappropriate to give you a gift anyway? I just thought, because of the tape you made me-”
Dean waves him away and rises from his seat, his heart skipping a few beats as he moves closer to Cas. He leans against the edge of the table and holds his hands out towards him. “I’ve never been one to turn down free stuff. Give it here, sunshine.”
Cas takes a step closer but his hands remain firmly attached to the little parcel. “I just- I know it’s not very aesthetically pleasing. The tape kept rolling away from me and I couldn’t seem to cut the paper evenly. Angels can do a great many things, but wrapping gifts is apparently not one of them.”
It takes every ounce of Dean’s strength not to laugh at the grim expression on Cas’ face. Only he could imbue something so ordinary with the seriousness of a heavenly mission. “I used to wrap gifts in newspaper, Cas, it’s fine.” He reaches forward and gently removes the gift from Cas’ reluctant hands.
Before Cas can finish talking, Dean turns the parcel over in his hands and comes face to face with a hilariously hideous mess of tape, torn paper, and what looks suspiciously like chewed gum. He raises an eyebrow at Cas who is awkwardly rubbing a hand across his neck. “I was going to tell you not to do that.”
Dean grins and flips the parcel back to the less Frankenstein-esque side. “Better?”
The soft smile that Cas flashes him in reply makes Dean want to wrap his arms around him and never let go. He shakes the thought from his head and digs into the parcel, gently pulling apart the layers of paper and tape, and expertly avoiding the gum. As he clears away the debris, something falls from the parcel and lands on the ground. He stoops to pick it up and a wave of emotion washes over him so suddenly he feels breathless. He straightens and looks at the item in his hands. For a long moment all he can do is stare at the gift Cas gave him. The thing Cas picked out, just for him. Just because he felt like it.
“Socks,” he eventually hears his voice croak out.
“Yeah, I, uh, thought you might like them.” He looks at Cas, his eyes pricking with tears. He looks back at the novelty socks and the little pizza slices embroidered into the fabric. “I know how much you love your hotdog pajamas and I thought-” Cas’ voice catches suddenly in his throat, doubt sneaking into his words. “I saw these at the store and they made me think of you,” he finishes quickly.
“Cas,” Dean begins, but the rest of the words dissolve on his tongue. He looks at him and wonders how he can even begin to explain how much this means to him. How much the angel, standing only a breath away, and fidgeting nervously with the belt of his trenchcoat, means to him. Even if he could find the words, they wouldn’t be enough.
And maybe this time, he needs more than words.
Screw it, Dean thinks. It’s now or never.
Dean drops the socks and steps forward fast, before his brain can take over. He has just enough time to see a familiar look of confusion cross Cas’ face before their mouths connect. Without a second of hesitation, Cas returns his kiss, so eager and so gentle it makes him want to cry. If Dean wasn’t so preoccupied he’d pinch himself. Cas gave him pizza socks and now they’re kissing? With a monumental effort, Dean switches off his brain and lets every doubt seep from his body as he leans into the kiss.
The warmth of Cas’ lips, and his hands gently cupping Dean’s face are the start and the end of the world for Dean Winchester.
Who knew novelty socks could be so romantic?
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