It’s not a good day when Chat Noir falls flat on his face. He’s graceful, agile. He’s gotten used to leaping over buildings and doing all sorts of aerial gymnastics. Today shouldn’t be any different, but it is. Running on a significant lack of sleep and a full day’s worth of school and extracurricular activities has Adrien Agreste beyond tired with a head full of fog. He can’t even imagine getting up for school again the next day.
An akuma attack has him and Ladybug racing to the nearest art museum. They spent ten minutes looking high and low for the akuma (an invisible akuma, of all things! Chat Noir could scream). They had split up, and Chat Noir ended up in a completely different wing of the museum. He would’ve liked to examine the oil paintings and statues for a while, maybe sit down and rest his tired legs, but a loud boom sounded and he went running. He hoped Ladybug wasn’t injured, that explosion sounded pretty bad, and in his haste to get to her, he tripped over his own feet and fell on the waxed marble floor. His forehead collides painfully with the tile.
He’s never been clumsy. Chat Noir didn’t do clumsy. He was suave and limber with a charming grin to match. However, with his face still pressed against the cold floor, he doesn’t feel very charming. Not even the slightest bit cool. Chat Noir contemplates just laying there for a while. Ladybug was smart and capable, she could handle the Akuma without him, couldn’t she? The gentleman in him flared to life. It was rude to leave a lady to fend for herself in the midst of battle, even though he was pretty sure Ladybug could kick his ass seven different ways.
God, he’s so tired. He doesn’t want to move.
“You need a hand, kitty?”
Chat Noir starts and his head shoots up. Only Ladybug called him kitty, and that definitely wasn’t Ladybug’s voice. Instead, he meets the strange, polished eyes of Rena Rouge. Her expression is torn between mild amusement and concern.
“Uh, maybe.” Chat Noir mumbles, feeling his face flush despite the weak smile on his face.
Rena Rouge reaches out a gloved hand and pulls Chat Noir to his feet. “I saw you fall.” she says. “You landed pretty hard.”
“Yeah,” Chat Noir scratches the back of his head, trying to ignore the sting in his forehead. “Totally not... sexy.”
At this, Rena Rouge gives him a funny look and she bursts out laughing. “Totally!” she agrees. “But seriously, are you okay?”
“I’ll live.” Chat Noir can’t suppress a yawn, and quickly covers his mouth. “Sorry.”
Rena Rouge shakes her head, her lips quirking into a smile. “It’s no big, I--”
They both start, and their heads turn. They can see Ladybug in another room, and from the looks of it, she has her yo-yo wrapped around the Akuma and is desperately pulling at the string to keep it tied up. “A little help would be nice!” she says, before her yo-yo is tugged, yanking her out of sight. Rena Rouge and Chat Noir cast each other one last look before they go running after her.
The next day, Adrien slides into class with seconds to spare. He’s normally never late, but he forgot to set an alarm and Nathalie had to call his name five times before he woke up. He managed to grab himself a coffee on the way to school, there was no time for breakfast. He sips it slowly, trying to keep his eyes from sliding shut.
“Dude.” Nino intones. “You look horrible.”
“Long night.” Adrien mutters. “Hypothetically speaking, if someone were to pull the fire alarm and leave school while everyone evacuated the building, how much trouble do you think they would get in?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s a crime, Adrien. But if you’re going through some weird rebellious phase, I’m totally with you.”
Adrien hums. “If I can just get some good sleep, I think the rebellion will die.” He goes to take another sip of his coffee, only to find it snatched out of his hand. Adrien blinks, confused, until a warm styrofoam cup is set down in front of him. Looking up, Adrien sees Alya with his coffee in her grip, giving him a warm smile. Marinette is standing beside her, looking awfully shy and red.
“Coffee stunts your growth.” Alya says, and she plops a paper bag down beside the styrofoam cup. “You can thank me later.” she leaves, with Marinette trailing after her. Adrien reads the label on the cup. Black Peach Tea. He fishes inside the paper bag and pulls out a warm breakfast sandwich. It’s sausage and egg and cheese and it smells absolutely wonderful .
“Woah.” Nino smiles. “That was nice of her.”
“Yeah.” Adrien peers inside the bag and takes out a plastic knife. “Wanna share?”
Rena Rouge didn’t think she was ready for night patrol, but Ladybug thought otherwise.
“Night patrol is another important aspect of being a superhero, and it’s usually pretty lax.” At Rena Rouge’s hesitant expression, Ladybug gives her hand a squeeze. “Trust me, you’ll do just fine.”
They end up splitting up again, and Rena Rouge vaults herself on top of building after building. She’ll never get over the exhilaration of flying through the air under the stars. The wind runs its fingers through her hair, and Rena’s heart leaps. She loves this. She absolutely loves this.
Looking towards the Eiffel Tower, she spots a familiar leather clad figure, and silently scales the building. When she gets close enough, Rena Rouge leans forward and taps Chat Noir on the shoulder. “Hey, there.”
Chat Noir starts, and turns to her, his brilliant green eyes turning from alarmed to playful.
“Sneaky fox, shouldn’t you be patrolling?” he asks, not a stern note in his voice.
“Yeah,” Rena easily slides in beside him. “But I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sit right next to the second best superhero in Paris.”
“Second best?” Chat Noir echoes, starting to protest, and then he falters. “Well, yeah. Okay.” They sit together in silence and Rena sighs. The view is spectacular. Paris is glittering like jewels in a crown. Rena can’t help but give a dreamy sigh.
“It’s beautiful.” she breathes, and Chat Noir nods.
“One of the many perks of night patrol.” he whispers. A flash of red comes into view, and Rena points.
“Hey look!” Chat Noir follows her gaze and a smile lights up his face. Ladybug is vaulting over buildings, unaware of the two superheroes watching her. Rena Rouge can’t help but marvel at it all. The girl behind the mask had always wanted this. A chance to see the famous heroes of Paris up close, but she never imagined she’d be one of them. But here she was, sitting beside Chat Noir, watching Ladybug jump and glide across the Paris rooftops like something out of a dream.
Rena notices that Chat Noir is staring at Ladybug like a distant lover. As if she is the genesis of all things. The beginning and the end of all things spectacular. Alya had always secretly wished the two of them would get together someday. She couldn’t help it, they just had too much chemistry. The electricity between them was utterly palpable. Unable to stop herself, Rena glances at her lap and goes, “Ladybug is pretty amazing.”
Chat Noir gives a sigh, and it’s both sweet and sad at the same time. “Yeah, she’s...great. Well, not great she’s--she’s so much more, I mean...Yeah. Yeah, she’s great.” he rambles, and it’s adorable. Rena has to stop herself from biting her knuckles and giving a highly undignified squeal. Instead, she settles for a smile.
“I bet you two would look good together.” she prods, and Chat Noir nods in agreement.
“That’s what I keep telling her! But, you know, superhero business and all. Romance doesn’t mix well with secret identities.” Rena hums, she hadn’t thought about that, and suddenly she feels rather sad.
“That must be hard.” she mumbles. She can’t really get her head around the concept. Desperately wanting someone you could never have based on circumstances you couldn’t control. The romantic in her ached at the thought.
Chat Noir’s next words are wistful.
“For her, it’s worth it.”
The explosion that goes off clouds Chat Noir’s vision in a haze of dust. The heat travels through his suit and pricks his skin uncomfortably. There’s a wailing in the distance from a nearby ambulance, and several police cars are rearing into view. The building had been evacuated by Ladybug, and Rena had ran back inside to double check that every civilian was out safely. That was when Chat Noir smelled the gas, and his heart nearly dropped to his stomach.
Several aching moments pass, and Chat Noir is ready to run straight into the dust and fire, when he sees Rena Rouge’s orange costume running out to him. Her eyes are screwed shut, and she’s coughing out the smoke from her lungs.
“Rena!” he calls to her, watching as Ladybug visibly sags in relief. He runs up to her, eyes scanning her to check for any sort of cuts or bruises. “Are you okay?”
“Fine!” she says, and she looks up at him. Her eyes are wide and bright with adrenaline. Strands of hair have come loose from her ponytail, wonderfully tousled. She’s beaming, much to his surprise, and he’s never seen anyone look so alive after almost dying from a horrible gas explosion. “I’m fine! Is everyone else okay?”
“Uh, yeah. But..are you sure you’re alright?” At this, Rena’s excited expression softens and she reaches out to pluck at the bell on his suit.
“You’re sweet, kitty. But I really am okay.” She looks noticeably calmer, and it’s only then does Chat Noir realize just how hard his heart had been pounding. That was a really close call, and he almost wants to scold her for being so reckless. He watches as Rena goes bounding up to Ladybug, still excited and breathless, and whatever he wants to say dies on his tongue.
It’s raining the next time they meet. It’s slow, and for once, Chat Noir feels grateful that Hawkmoth decided to keep his evildoing under wraps today. It was much too depressing a day for him to be running throughout Paris for an akuma. Chat Noir wasn’t keen on slipping off a roof or anything. The rain is a sweet relief from the heat wave that has plagued Paris for the last three days. Ladybug insisted they scan the area, just to be safe. Chat Noir tried to quell her to no avail, there wasn’t anything to worry about.
“Just try and relax, bugaboo.” he had told her, and smoothed back his steadily dampening hair. “You know, the rain can be pretty romantic.”
“Oh yeah?” she quirked an eyebrow in amusement. “And how’s that?”
“Come on, my Lady. I’m sure you know the cliche by heart.” his voice was smooth like dark velvet, and he leaned in closer to her. “Two lovers getting soaked in the rain, gazing into each other’s eyes, only mere centimeters away from the grand kiss…” he was practically nose to nose with her, keeping the gaze of those lovely blue eyes. Ladybug, as expected, had gently pushed him away with her finger on the tip of his nose.
“Very funny, kitty. Maybe you should try that on the next girl.”
“Didn’t you know?” he said smoothly. “All the girls are dying to get a kiss from Chat Noir.”
“Really?” Ladybug quipped back, feigning surprise. “Than why are those girls lining up to seal a kiss with me?” she laughs at the shock on his face, and extends her yo-yo, giving him a wave goodbye before she’s flying away from him and over the rain soaked rooftops.
Chat Noir watches her go, and something in his chest is heavy. He always gets that feeling when he watches Ladybug turn down another one of his advances. This one was on him, however. He shouldn’t have gotten that close to her. He was drawn in by that scent of hers, something akin to strawberry and cinnamon. Her soft and glossy lips, those angelic, delicate features…Chat Noir shook his head. Now was definitely not the time for exaggerated metaphors.
A nearby shop bell jingles, and Rena Rouge comes out holding two paper cups. She hands one to him and she’s positively beaming from ear to ear. “From the manager.” she says, as Chat Noir accepts the drink. “She didn’t want us to get a cold.”
“Wow, that was nice of her.” Chat Noir always got perks like that whenever he was out patrolling. It was free ice-cream and smoothies in the summer, and warm delicate cupcakes from the bakery down the street in the fall. He had always refused, however. The offer was incredibly nice, but he always insisted on paying for his food.
“And can you believe it? Some girls in the shop wanted my autograph! Me! ” Rena is blushing delightedly and she can’t hold back a giddy laugh. “I have fans , Chat!” she takes a sip of her drink, and Chat Noir does the same. It’s hot chocolate, with extra whipped cream. He’s delighted by her enthusiasm. Rena Rouge was really growing into herself as a superhero. Seeing her so happy reminded him of when he got his first fan.
“Do you ever get asked for autographs?” Rena asked, wiping the whipped cream off the side of her mouth with her thumb. His thoughts are still on Ladybug, so he doesn’t answer for a moment or two. But Rena Rouge’s questioning eyes meet his and he takes another sip before answering, letting the warm chocolate coat his throat.
“Didn’t you know?” he says, and his voice is just the slightest bit melancholy. “All the girls want a kiss from Chat Noir.”
If he is sad, Rena doesn’t notice. Instead she laughs, light and airy. “Of course they do. How can they possibly resist you?”
“What are we doing?” Rena Rouge asks as they walk along a roof. Roof-walking was becoming a bit of a habit when it comes to being a superhero. She was no longer nervous, she was practically a pro now. “Aren’t we supposed to be on patrol?”
“Yes, but tonight is different.” Chat Noir leads her on to another building. “Tonight, I want to show you another perk of night patrol.” Rena Rouge wants to know more, but she holds her questions until they’re well away from the usual neighborhood. Rena is briefly worried about what Ladybug would think, what with them going so far away like this. But that thought is carried away with the sweet night air as Chat Noir stops.
He crouches down, and she does the same. He peers over the roof, and points. Hesitantly, Rena does the same.
“What is this, Chat?” she asks. There is a building with an open dance floor across from them. String lights lined the roof, and a soft delicate tune is playing from the large band. Rena Rouge can vaguely recognize the tune.
“I come here whenever I can to see the couples dance.” Chat Noir explains in a low voice. “See there?” he points and Rena cranes her neck to see an older couple slow-dancing. “Those are the two I like best. I convinced them to finally get together after months of them tip-toeing around each other.” Rena watches them carefully. They’re slower than the other couples, and they seem to be lost in their own little world. Orbiting around each other as if nothing else in the entire world existed. Rena’s eyes burn and she blinks rapidly. Old people always made her cry, in a weird way. She was such a sap.
“That’s really sweet, Chat.” she whispers.
When night patrol ends and Alya detransforms, she closes her bedroom door and shuts her eyes. A sigh escapes her, and she slid down onto the floor, resting her head against her knees. Two realizations hit her at once.
One was that she may possibly, possibly , have feelings for a certain cat.
The other one was the music. Moonlight serenade. Glenn Miller.
Rena Rouge’s eyes are like polished jewels, Chat Noir notes one afternoon. A successful day of stopping Hawkmoth had left them all in high spirits, and they lingered around a bit to speak to civilians. Chat Noir figured they deserved it, after all they’ve done. There was nothing wrong with soaking in the limelight for a little while. Chat Noir watches as Rena Rouge bends down to let a little girl and her brother touch the ears of her costume, and she says something that makes them both laugh. She ends up catching his eye and waves.
He waves back, and there’s something in her expression that he can’t quite put his finger on. Rena Rouge seemed to be taking up all of the space in his head these days, no matter how hard he tried to shake her out. His heart belonged to Ladybug and Ladybug only. She was all he desired. She was brave and funny and utterly brilliant. How many times did he only need to think of her, and all his courage came rushing back? He loved her…
And she didn’t love him back. That was what it all came down to in the end, didn’t it? The fact that her heart belonged to someone else. The sting would sometimes be unbearable, and Chat Noir figured he was tired of hurting by now. He was confused, incredibly so. Rena Rouge was everything Ladybug was, just in slightly different ways. She had a sarcastic dry wit, and she could charm the pants off any civilian within a five miles radius. Her flirting skills could put his to shame. How many times did they go back and forth with each other, only for Chat Noir to tell himself it was nothing more than playful banter among friends?
Yes, it was true. Denying it wouldn’t help. There was an energy between them, something soft yet tangible. A confusing mess of lingering gazes and things left unsaid. It had to be something, dammit. If he was comparing her eyes to jewels. It didn’t matter how many times Chat Noir tried to knock some sense into himself. Things in his life were changing and he was powerless to stop it.
They talk some more before the crowd eventually disperses. Then, the very person that had been occupying his thoughts comes up to him, flushed and happy. “Did you see those kids?” she asks him. “Aren’t they cute?” They spend the next couple of moments talking, before Rena Rouge’s necklace beeps, and she touches it gently.
“I should go.” she tells him, but she isn’t moving.
“Yeah, maybe.” Chat Noir replies, and he can’t help but wink at her. “I’ll see you later, foxy lady.” Then, he takes her hand and kisses her knuckles. It was a gesture reserved only for his Ladybug, but doing it for Rena Rouge seemed both natural and daring at the same time. Rena Rouge blinks, blushes and gasps when her necklace beeps again, louder this time. She says goodbye to him, and Ladybug leaves with her.
When Ladybug retrieves the fox miraculous moments later, she meets back with Chat Noir. They sit on the Eiffel Tower and watch the sun go down.
“Is there something going on between you and Rena Rouge?” she asks, and Chat Noir doesn’t find that surprising at all. Of course she had noticed that hand kiss. She noticed everything, well, almost everything. Chat thinks back to that night on the roof, when he showed her the elderly couple dancing. She had looked near tears then, but schooled her expression in hopes that he wouldn’t notice. But he did.
“No.” he responds, and tries to make himself believe. “You know I only have eyes for you.”