Adrien’s life wasn’t the easiest. Sure, his father was rich and he was living a noble life, but above all the responsibilities Gabriel gave to his only child, he also kept him inside the mansion. “It is too dangerous outside” he constantly answered him each time he asked. But Adrien, despite all the warnings Gabriel gave him, was stubborn and decided to go out anyway.
What could possibly be that dangerous outside?
Granted, Gabriel only told him it was dangerous, but how and what was had always been a mystery to him. He understood the day he went out and met one … and the one infected him.
Apparently, what his father had failed to explain to him was that the outside world was populated by a were-fauna, were-animals roaming the lands. Usually, these creatures were folks and farmers, people who didn’t have the luxury to stay inside the house to avoid being infected. After that fateful day, Adrien did more research about these were-creatures.
There were multiple animals one could transform into. It was determined by one's personality and DNA, even if the latter wasn't part of their science yet. A were-raccoon could create a were-owl for example.
The transformation time and duration were unfortunately random. Adrien learned in horror that some were-animals had stayed transformed for weeks, months, even years. Most of the transformations lasted from a few hours to a few days, but could happen anytime. He hoped against hope that it would never come to last longer than a day or two, and these moments would never be inappropriate, but Adrien was a black cat at heart and had never been lucky enough for his karma to grant his wishes. It had been kind to him for now, but he wouldn't bet his life on it.
He was glad though when he found out most of the good people stayed good when they transformed. Actually, the were-fauna wasn't that dangerous, but there were always some individuals for whom the transformation brought back their feral side and made the entire were-fauna a threat. Some of their human conscience stayed intact, or barely lowered to a more basic, instinctive level. Cases of full feral regression were rare, but remarkable.
When he first transformed, his body ached so badly he almost passed out. He was covered in black fur with a short dirty blond mane and green feline eyes. He looked like an inverted-colors black lion. However, this first transformation put him in some kind of trance and he barely remembered what'd happened. When he retrieved his human form, Adrien learned he had destroyed houses and farms, and killed some life-stock. He swore to himself he'd never let that happen again.
He decided that, if his alter-ego had done so much destruction, it would be to his alter-ego to right its wrongs. During his next transformations, he tried to focus on his human mind, staying himself as much as possible. Only when he was able to write his name properly did he decide to go out.
The first times, he stole life-stock from the Agreste mansion to give them to replace the ones he had killed, making sure some people would see him. When words of a black were-lion spread across the land, people he had attacked were ready to chase him, but the more he gave back, the more they lowered their weapons. Soon, were-lion Adrien started to bring food he hunted for people while they were busy rebuilding, or chase wolves or foxes attacking the farms. He also did his best to protect them from thieves and bandits.
Folks began to trust him. They offered him treats, then pets and cuddles. Adrien realized how much he missed affection and craved for human warmth. His father, as well-willed as he could be, wasn't the typical cuddler. He could barely smile to his son, so receiving a hug from him was sure out of the ordinary. His furry alter-ego was even welcomed around children. Never did he lose patience when toddlers pulled on his whiskers or walked on his tail. He played with them so gently he became an unofficial babysitter.
The scary black were-lion became a giant lap pet. He became Chat Noir, the black cat.
His luck turned when his last transformation lasted a week. Adrien knew it’d bring him troubles, and he was right. As soon as he came back home, Nathalie was there to announce his father requested to speak with him. Fuck… That never was a good sign. But, of course, he didn’t have a choice and obeyed. “Yes, Father?” Adrien asked, his back straight and his arms on each side, standing like a soldier.
“Where have you been?” Gabriel demanded, knowing the answer already. And Adrien knew he knew. He preferred to stay silent, turning his gaze to the floor. Gabriel sighed. “I told you the outside world was dangerous. What were you thinking?”
Adrien took a deep breath. He had to answer and, well, live with the consequences. Even if they locked Adrien inside for the rest of his life, they’d never be able to stop Chat Noir from going out. “You never told me why it was so dangerous, and always refused to answer me when I asked. I’ve decided to look by myself, and so far, I’ve failed to see in what this is so dangerous. You’ve made me train in combat so I can defend myself, but what’s the point when there is nothing to be afraid of?”
He regretted his answer when he saw a pure rage in his father’s eyes. “There are things outside that could eviscerate you!” Gabriel growled. “How do you think your mother had died ?!” Adrien looked at his father in shock. Of course, he knew his mother was dead, but no one ever told him how she had died. “I swore to myself I would kill every single one of them, the next one being this Chat Noir living in the lands…”
Adrien’s blood ran cold. “But, Father, Chat Noir never hurt anyone! He’s~”
“He’s one of them !” replied his father, hitting angrily the floor with his cane. “I swear I’ll make another coat out of his fur !”
This time, Adrien fought the urge to throw up. His father had became rich by creating coats and accessories out of fur, leather and feathers. He never let Adrien accompany him during his hunting parties, and he understood now why. “Th-They’re p-people !!” he stuttered, shaking from head to toes. “Th-They have f-friends and fam-families, and most of them a-are harmless!”
“ Harmless ?!” Gabriel repeated in stupor. “Your mother has been killed by a were-peacock. A were -peacock! If something as harmless as a peacock can kill a person, what about this black were- lion !?” He walked to Adrien, gripping his cane in fury and stopped when he was just at a few centimeters from him. “Do you want to go to your mother’s tomb and tell her how harmless these monsters are?”
The teenager was frozen in place. He was one of them. He was Chat Noir. He knew he was harmless, but his father refused to see the people behind the creatures. His own father was a threat to him, to the whole were-fauna in the country. How many did he have already killed? How many were to come? He felt his head spinning and his body ache. No… Not now!
Adrien made a few steps back as his nails grew into sharp claws and his hands covered in black fur. The stress of the situation had triggered his transformation, but transforming just a few minutes after coming back to normal wasn’t good for the body and the mind. It hurt Adrien even more than his first transformation, and his wailings changed to a loud growl. Gabriel stepped back, unsheathing the saber hidden in his cane. “No… Adrien…” he murmured. He gripped his saber, holding a fighting stance. “First, your mother; then you… How sad…”
Wait… “What are you talking about?” Adrien groaned, slowly losing his voice. “You said she was killed by a werrrrrrr…” Too late. He wouldn’t be able to complete his sentence, but it seemed that Gabriel perfectly understood.
“The were-peacock infected her, so I had to kill Emilie to free her from her misery” he corrected, thrusting his saber to his son. Adrien barely dodged, trying to stay focussed on his father’s words. “Be sure I didn’t let her transform and become a monster like the one who got her!” Monster… He was one to talk… His mother could have been just fine, still in control of her human mind and soul like he was, but he never gave her the opportunity to find out. His father had killed his mother, not the were-peacock! Adrien dodged another thrust and scrambled to get back on his feet and fled. He wouldn’t stay there. He couldn’t stay there. His father knew now, and he wouldn’t rest until he got his skin - quite literally.
Chat Noir ran and ran as fast and as far away from the Agreste mansion as he could. His mind was flickering between human and wild beast, but he only knew he had to run. He ended up crawling into a small building. Even if he had a good night vision, he could barely make out where he was. He was exhausted and flopped in a pile of hay.
He badly woke up when he heard a female scream at the door and a sudden sharp pain on his upper arm. A teenager, around his own age, entered the stable, a sling in hands. Chat Noir looked at her, trying to figure out her features and his surroundings, but his spinning head couldn’t focus on anything. “Where’s Tikki?!” she asked, pointing at the box he had slept in. “You ate her?” She spun the sling again. “How could you eat my favorite piglet!?” Wh-What?! “I’ll make you pay!!” She swung her sling, but Chat dodged the pebble and scrammed by jumping out a window. He put some distance between the young lady and him, then tried to focus. His body was aching from the run, the forced transformation and the hunger. The piglet! He was hungry; he couldn’t have eaten the piglet! He took a look at his hurt arm. It was slightly bleeding, but the pain was sharp. He tried walking on it, but it sored too much. He’d had to deal with it.
Chat had slept in the box of the piglet - Tikki? - so his nose was full of her odor. Maybe he could help this girl? After all, she hurt him out of fear, not out of malice or hatred like his father could have done. He stopped. His own father had killed his mother and had tried to kill him. Could he still consider this man as a member of his family? Could he bear sharing the same blood? He sighed, then sniffed the air. He was too tired right now to think about it. He was Chat Noir; this was a problem for Adrien. He found a smell trace and followed it.
He found the piglet a few hours later, digging the ground with her groin in a peaceful place. It seemed like nothing could interfere with her search for food. The reddish with black spots piglet barely looked at him when he calmly approached to delicately take her in his mouth. If he really was hunting for food, this piglet would be easy prey. Tikki grumbled, bothered, but didn’t fight him.
Chat brought back the piglet to her box in the stable, but he’d just put Tikki down when he felt a sharp pain to the head. This time, the girl seemed to have been waiting for him and got him by surprise. He fell to the ground and passed out.
That morning, the girl got up early, waiting for the were-lion she saw the day before. If it had eaten one of her piglets, it would surely come back today as well. She didn’t believe in killing were-animals, but she was working hard at breeding what she called her “ladybug-piglets”, small pink or reddish piglets with round black spots, and she wouldn’t let a were-animal eat all of her hard work. Tikki was her favorite one and she couldn’t bear the idea of having lost her.
When she got to the stable, she wasn’t surprised to find it there. She wasn’t a warrior, but she knew how to defend her precious piglets with her sling. It was down on the ground with a quick swing and a pebble rightly shot to its head. She sighed in relief, glad to get the threat taken care of, but as she was about to move it outside, she saw her precious Tikki back to her box, right next to the were-lion’s mouth. Tikki looked pretty calm around it as well.
Instead of moving the were-lion to the forest like she intended to, she moved it back to her house and treated the wounds she had inflicted. It was the least she could do. After all, she thought it had killed Tikki when she had just escaped and, even after having hurt it at first, it brought her back to her. This young were-lion wasn’t as dangerous as it looked.
She put a blanket on the floor right in front of the fireplace, and laid the black creature on it. She tended to its wounds, then left it to rest while she was going to look at her piglets.
When he woke up, Chat looked around, trying to figure out where he had ended up. He was in a small but cozy house, bandages on his upper arm and head. He leaned down, his head still spinning, but calmer than the day before. He sighed. He couldn’t return home. He’d lost everything and everyone he ever had. He was in his were-lion form and couldn’t know when he’d return to his human one. Adrien didn’t remember having ever read something about a were-animal having transformed right after returning to their human form. How did that affect the body? The mind? He could say his mind was intact, at least for now, but his body was still aching badly. What if he was stuck as Chat Noir for months? For years ?! He shuddered at the idea.
He was resting, lost in thoughts, when he heard someone getting inside the house. He lifted his head, genuinely curious at who was taking care of him. His ears perked up when he recognized the petite figure from the stable. After all that happened, she had welcomed him in her house? “Oh! You’re awake!” she chirped. She approached slowly, calmly, making sure he would understand she meant no harm. He shifted on the blanket to face her properly, but stayed laid down. He felt too weak to get up anyway, and preferred to keep the little strength he had to flee if necessary. “I’m sorry I’ve hurt you. All I saw was you in the box of my favorite piglet and I got scared for her.” For her, for Tikki, not even for her own life…
She sat down beside him. “How do you feel?” she asked softly. He put a hand on his head and growled. “Yeah, I guess you still have a headache” she commented, uncomfortable. “I hit you fair and square, after all...” He looked away from her. If only he could tell her how the pebbles weren’t so bad compared to everything else! “Hey!” She reached for him, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder blade. “I get that things might not be easy for you right now, so feel free to stay here for as long as you want, okay? I owe you that much for bringing Tikki back despite the fact that I’d hit you.” He turned back to her, slightly bowing his head and making a soft prusten, basically a purr and a sigh mixed together. In the feline language, it was meant to be a friendly hello , but Chat Noir used it for anything meant to be positive - Hello, Thank you, Yes, Understood,...
She smiled, then stood up, heading for the kitchen. She suddenly stopped, turning to him. “Oh! I forgot! My name’s Marinette. Welcome to my house!” And she returned to the kitchen. Marinette… What a cute name! And what a nice person… She wasn’t addressing him like an animal that might understand. She was addressing him like a human, like a person to a person. That was a welcomed change. He laid back down with a happy purr.
Days passed, his body was back to normal - or as normal as it could be - and Chat accompanied Marinette pretty much everywhere. Her presence by his side was calming and he felt really protective of her. He discovered she was living alone, and her “ladybug-piglets” were her only source of revenue. He felt bad for her, but she seemed happy nonetheless. When she was done with her work, she gladly spent time lying on the blanket in front of the fireplace with him. She found out with a giggle that her furry friend was a big lap pet and cuddled with her at every occasion. Craving for affection before everything that happened, Chat became even more hungry for human warmth after he had lost everything. Soon enough, Marinette became the center of his universe.
Despite her desire to bring him everywhere she went - not that he would give her a choice in the matter - , his presence by her side made other merchants uncomfortable. He was an unusual black were-lion after all.
One day, they met a lady at the marketplace who looked intensely at Chat Noir for many minutes. He was laying down on a pile of crates, sunbathing, but still keeping an eye on Marinette and the piglets. When Marinette noticed, she quickly came to the lady. “Don’t worry about him, he won’t hurt anyone, I promise!”
The lady moved her gaze from the were-lion and smiled softly, shaking her head. “Oh! I know! He’s a sweet, big furry baby!” she answered with a chuckle. “Chat Noir used to babysit my daughter and other kids in the village. I was just surprised to see him so far away! We were wondering what happened to him…”
“Chat Noir?” Marinette repeated with a smile, looking at him. He was looking back at them, wide eyes and ears turned back, flat on his head. Marinette’s smile faded, transforming into a frown, then turned to the lady. “Madame, I would appreciate it if you kept Chat Noir’s presence here a secret. He hasn’t transformed back yet and couldn’t tell me his story, but I can tell he’s uncomfortable with the fact that he has been discovered living here…” She looked back at him with a wink and he visibly calmed down. She would protect him as he was protecting her.
“Oh! Of course!” she assured. “But you need to know that, back to the village, we have heard that Gabriel Agreste has put a bounty on his head. No one in the village would give him away, so Kitty, please stay here and, it’s sad to say it, but... never come back…” Chat’s ears drooped on his head, looking away from the ladies. His father really wanted him dead.
“Chat Noir?” He heard the soft voice of Marinette calling him back to reality, her fingers combing his matted mane. The lady was gone already. He closed his eyes and made a sad prusten. She wrapped her arms around his neck, nuzzling his mane. “It’s okay. I already knew you didn’t want to go back. I don’t know what you did to this Gabriel Agreste, but I can tell you I’ll fight anyone trying to take you away from me.” He purred loudly, softly returning her hug with his huge paw. And he would fight anyone trying to take her away from him…
She chuckled softly. "It's nice to meet you, Chat Noir." He made a content prusten.
The next day, they saw the lady again as Marinette was packing her stuff and Chat was carrying the piglets in their transport crates Marinette had adapted for him. "Chat Noir!" She called as she waved. He trotted to her and was greeted by an ear scratch. He rubbed his head on her belly, making her and Marinette giggle. The latter had never seen Chat Noir acting like an actual cat, but she understood the need to do so. She had always seen him like a person in a were-cat body, when this lady probably had seen the monster before the cat. Seeing the person in the cat would take more time.
The lady beckoned Chat to follow her and came closer to Marinette. "I wanted to give a thank you gift to Chat before going home, kind of a souvenir from our village." She explained. She extirpated a vivid green collar with a golden bell attached to it from her bag. "I've heard that, in some cities, were-animals who behave wear this kind of collar" she said while letting Chat sniff the thing. "They mark the were-creature as a good one and they can walk around without any problems, like, say, a well-trained dog. You can even embroider their name and yours so they know who is responsible for them. Since no one knows his real name, it might be better to stitch only yours."
"Thank you" answered Marinette, Chat making a happy purr and lifting his head to allow Marinette to attach the collar. The bell was making a nice ringing sound. It wouldn't bother him to wear it. He even played with it, making the ladies laugh at his antics.
Since this day, the word of a black were-lion with a short blond mane and a bell collar walking around in the market spread like powder. Merchants got used to see it walking with the young lady with raven hair attached in pigtails and bluebell eyes. It was taking care of its human's piglets, kept the thieves away and even was taking care of errands she could send it to do.
Chat still had his human intelligence, so he still could count. Marinette sometimes gave him a basket with a shopping list and enough money to buy what she needed. Behaving perfectly, he would wait his turn, sit in front of the merchant with his basket in his mouth, and the list and purse attached to his collar. The merchant then would take the list, put in the basket what they offered, take the money they needed and Chat would thank them with a bow of the head before heading to the next stand. When the merchant tried to keep more money, Chat would growl and, if they wouldn't understand the first warning, they would meet Chat's fangs. It usually ended with a "Gees! Alright, alright! Here's the correct change. Happy?" Chat would huff impatiently, but move on.
Things were going smoothly and the more the time passed, the more they could work without Marinette having to give Chat instructions. And when they got home, he felt like home. Never in his human life did Adrien feel so much loved, even if his feelings aren't reciprocal.