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Sunshine to the Square Inch

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It's not often that he patrols without Ladybug, but she called Chat earlier that day to tell him that she's going to be too busy for it this evening, so he finds himself on patrol alone.

Technically, he probably could have stayed home and she'd be none the wiser. Nothing ever happens on patrol, anyway. But Chat Noir needs this time out of his house, and now that it's October, the weather has turned crisp. He could probably watch the sky for hours. Patrol requires him to keep moving, but he keeps the orange sunset in the corner of his vision anyway. 

It would be better if Ladybug were with him.

Just as he has that thought, a voice that sounds like hers calls out to him. Chat's cat ears swivel around to locate the source of the noise, his heart soaring. 

"Chat Noir!" The voice calls out again, and Chat finally looks across the gaps between houses instead of between them.

It's not Ladybug after all, but at the sight of Marinette enthusiastically waving from her balcony, Chat can't bring himself to be disappointed. 

With a few vaults of his baton, Chat Noir closes the distance between them to land gracefully on her balcony. He drops into a flourishing bow and grins when Marinette giggles.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of your company, Purr-incess?" He asks as he straightens back up.

"You're the superhero. I'm a baker's daughter," Marinette says haughtily. "I believe the pleasure is mine."

Both of them giggle again, and Chat let's his eyes wander, nose twitching. He knows that Marinette's balcony smells like flowers and faintly of her, but the smell of cinnamon and sugar and something undeniably warm is new. His eyes land on a box on the table next to her lounge chair and Chat lights up.

"Oh, I can't believe I forgot! It's the first day of October, and that means the bakery has autumn specials," Chat bemoans, kicking himself.

It's pretty much impossible to convince his father to let him order sweets, but Adrien can usually needle Nathalie into hiring Marinette's parents when they're hosting an event that needs to be catered. Sometimes, if he teams up with Alya and Nino, they can get Marinette to bring in a box or two of "rejected" pastries that her parents deem unfit for sale. She's always embarrassed by them, but Adrien thinks they're pieces of Heaven.

Marinette raises an eyebrow. "Funny you should say that. See, my Papa is trying out a new recipe, and I’ve been stuck in the bakery with him and Maman all day. These failed to meet his standards, so…" She picks up the box and opens it, revealing the most perfect, mouth-watering pumpkin spice palmiers that Chat has ever seen. He could cry . "You have a sweet tooth, don't you? Instead of just throwing them out, I thought I could see if Paris' favorite hero wants some."

It might just be a trick of the low light, but Chat Noir could have sworn that Marinette was blushing. He doesn't study that for too long.

"Second favorite hero," he corrects her absentmindedly, and Marinette shrugs. Chat has to hold himself back to keep from shoveling all of the palmiers into his mouth. "Are you sure you want me to have them? You know what they say about stray cats," he jokes. "If you feed them, they'll keep coming back."

The way that Marinette smiles at him makes his mouth dry. "I live in a bakery, Chat Noir. There's always plenty to share if you're hungry," she tells him, her voice warmer than the fresh desserts she's offering him.

For a long moment, the two of them just stare at each other. Chat feels… something. He can't put a name on it, but he wonders — just for a second — if Marinette tastes as good as she smells.

Then they both promptly turn red and Marinette shoves the box of palmiers into his hands gracelessly, mumbling, "SoyeahIjustthoughtyoumightbehungry. Patrolmustgetcoldandlonely— NotthatIwouldknowofcourse! " And she finishes it off with an awkward laugh that is more fitting of her behavior around Adrien than Chat Noir.

Like he does when he's Adrien, Chat smiles fondly and doesn't call attention to it. He takes a bite out of a palmier and struggles not to moan. It's easily the best tasting thing he's had since— Well, since the last time he ate at Tom and Sabine's bakery.

"Marinette, you are too good to me," Chat says through a mouthful of cookie. He crams the rest of it in with his first bite and is already reaching for a second one, ready to wax poetic about how incredible Marinette is. "Seriously. I might cry. Do you know I've been on a diet recently? A diet," he bemoans. "As if it's even possible for me to be better looking than I am now! All it means is lots of salads. Marinette, I am withering away by the day! You are a godsend."

He's only being a little bit dramatic. The diet is fine for a model, but it doesn't account for all of the calories Chat Noir burns as a superhero. It's been succeeding in making him lose weight, though. Which is probably not a good thing for fights.

"A diet?" Marinette seems personally offended by the notion. "Alright, Mr Drama Queen, if you can reign in the theatrics for a minute or two, you can come down into the bakery with me. Mama and Papa have plenty to get rid of. Maple pumpkin eclairs, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cream puffs… I'm sure they'd be willing to donate to a worthy cause."

Chat almost drops his box of palmiers and, like the suave bastard he is, nearly chokes on the food in his mouth. He swallows before answering. "Are you sure that would be okay? I don't want to intrude. And I really should get back to patrol—"

His concerns are waved off. "Are you kidding? My parents would love to fatten you up." Marinette takes hold of his wrist to drag him toward her trapdoor, and her hand is warm and distracting. Chat forgets to protest. "I'm sure Ladybug will forgive you for cutting patrol short. What kind of partner would she be if she didn't prioritize your health?"

There's a joke somewhere about how eating a dozen cookies isn't exactly "healthy," but Chat's stomach growls and he has to rapidly blink away the stinging in his eyes.

"Right," he agrees weakly. There's really no point in arguing with Marinette, and strangely, Chat doesn't want to. "But only for a little bit, alright?"

The smile that Marinette gives him is unfairly disarming and his thoughts dissolve into smoke. "Only for a little bit," she agrees, opening her trapdoor and dragging him into her bedroom.

It's a lot longer than "a little bit" before Chat, stuffed full and with a bag loaded with more boxes, finally leaves.