Actions

Work Header

Obsession

Chapter Text

It was meant to be only once.

Desperation drove him, hounding at his steps as he bounded across the rooftops of Paris. An ignited craving which could not, would not be ignored. His chest tightened and snatched at his already ragged breath as the streets became oh-so familiar.
Were it not for the rain, the scent of freshly baked bread would fill the air and tantalise his senses. Were it not for the clouds, overburdened and black, starlight would have taken his hand and guided his way.

But there was no starlight or scent of baked goods for him tonight. Only hot and wet and Marinette.

It was meant to be only once.

Bruised hearts and battered egos they stood alone among a maelstrom of whirling hormones and shared a common ache of an unrequited and overwhelming love. Within the mayhem their outstretched fingers had met and, broken and alone, clasped the other as a lifeline.

She ached for one who did not know she existed and he thought that a sad and sorry existence for her prince. How can someone fail to be blinded by her brilliance?

He was in love with one who could not love him back and hid his ache behind flirtations and smiles.

Two hearts, so different in their turmoil and yet so similar, yearned for solace in the darkness.

Clad in white and pink pajamas, she sat in her grove of polka-dot pink, a journal on her lap and beside her a tray with two mugs, a thermos, macarons and a wedge of cheese. A towel rested on a chair in clear invitation. The lights were dim, the room illuminated by a single lamp at her side.

Pushing open her window, he let himself in. “Hello Princess, did you miss me?”

She rested her pen between the folds of her journal as she closed it. “The cat finally dragged himself in.”

Picking up the towel, he dusted the water from his body. “Were you worried?”

She wouldn’t admit it even if she was. “I wasn’t looking forward to drinking all this hot chocolate by myself.”

Glad for Plagg’s waterproof armour, Chat Noir sat on the chaise beside her and grinned.

Her eyes widened, then she held up her hands in supplication. “No, don’t—”

Chat Noir shook his hair, showering both his princess and the surroundings in fine droplets of water.

“You’re a cat!” she complained, her laughter like soothing chimes. “Not a dog!”

He leant toward her, one hand on either side of her lithe body. “Ahh, but you’ll have me either way, won’t you, my Princess?”

Fingers against his chest gently pushed him back. “Maybe.”

Undeterred, he picked up a macaron to nibble while she poured them both a drink. “Did you make these?”

Soft breaths created ripples atop of the chocolate as she lifted her mug to her lips. “Yes.”

“Delicious, my Princess. Simply divine, just like its baker.”

Pink blossomed on her cheeks. “You are such a flirt.”

He grinned. “Purr-fection.”

Embarrassed, Marinette placed her mug on the tray and changed the subject. “I wondered if you’d come at all, considering the rain. The Ladyblog said the attack was hours ago.”

“Who could resist you?” he purred. A mistake, as he watched the light in her eyes dim. Covering, he said, “Your friend runs the Ladyblog, right?”

Marinette nodded. “Alya.”

“And what does Alya think of our secret rendezvous?”

The pink deepened and Marinette couldn’t meet his gaze. “She doesn’t know.”

“Are you ashamed of me?” he asked, his concentration on his macaron.

Her pigtails bobbed as she shook her head. “I don’t want to share. If she knew, then everyone would know and… I… I like it when you visit.”

He grinned. “I like it too.”

Pink bloomed down her neck and she scrambled for something to say. “I brought cheese for your… um…”

“Kwami,” Chat Noir supplied and nodded at the cheese wedge. “Thank you.”

“This way, when you start beeping, you won’t have to run home in the rain as yourself.”

Last time, when she’d been too enticing to consider leaving and he had pushed the transformation as far as it could go. Last time, when he’d detransformed on her terrace with his precious maiden squeezing shut her eyes so he didn’t reveal himself. While he’d bumbled through an explanation, Plagg had complained bitterly about the absence of sustenance, but had quickly been appeased by cheese bread. Adrien had been amazed at the classmate who took his secret with grace.

He warmed himself on the cockles of the kindness in her heart. “But alas, my Princess, you’ll see my true beauty while he recharges. You swoon enough without that added.”

She pulled a face at him. “As if. Besides—” She pulled out a swath of cloth from beneath the cushions. “I… er…”

“A blindfold.” The smile slid to a smirk and he winked. “Oh, I’m sure we can find other uses for that.”

Lifting a foot, she jabbed her toes into his ribs. “Stop it, Chat.”

He caught her ankle and slid his fingers up until he cupped her shin. Green eyes met blue and he was drawn toward her unbidden.

It was only supposed to be once. But he kept coming back for more. She was irresistible.

She melted back on the chaise and he flowed into her embrace. Nestled between her legs, he sought her warmth, comfort and understanding. “Is this okay?”

Fingers caressed his neck and danced through the hair at the nape, a gentle reassurance. “Yes.”

His lady, while both indulgent and enduring, disappeared fast after vanquishing an akuma, running back to the life which was so important. She was Ladybug for duty. He was Chat Noir for freedom. She was business, no play, only resolution. If he could become Chat Noir forever, he would leave his life behind with no regrets.

She needed him, might even love him, but not like he loved her. She didn’t know, didn’t understand. Not like Marinette did.

Marinette. Sweet. Charming. A sassiness which he had not been aware of and found delight in. Something he couldn’t draw out as Adrien, which vexed him immensely. Kind, so very kind, to take in a bedraggled alley-cat such as himself on a stormy night.

Plagg tried to explain it. This craving. This need. A flame he carried inside himself when he was Chat Noir, unlike anything he had experienced as Adrien. The more he transformed, and the longer he remained, the stronger the need. Even after defeating an akuma, he remained coiled tighter than a spring.

“Does she know?”

He traced her collarbone with the tips of his fingers. “She wouldn’t understand.”

“She might, if you told her. She could do this for you. Then you wouldn’t need me.”

He stilled, then propped himself up on his elbows so he could see her face. “Do you not want me to come anymore?”

A pained expression but he couldn’t tell what she was thinking. “No. I just think Ladybug could give you what you need if you asked her—”

There was a reason he’d never asked his lady. He was certain she’d oblige him, but it would be out of duty. She’d roll her eyes, scoff and make a witty quip and he’d feel his heart shredded beneath her candour. Marinette never made him feel that way. “My lady couldn’t feed me macarons and chocolate milk. My lady wouldn’t wait up in the rain to make sure I’m okay. My lady’s smile doesn’t light up her face when she sees me. Yours does. She can’t give me what I need, Marinette. What I need, my Princess, is you. And a princess is far brighter than a lady.”

She looked astounded at his admission. “Chat—”

His eyes slid away from her. “Alas, but I am a mere knight and if your blind prince has finally seen the light, I will regrettably—”

“He hasn’t.” Tender hands against his face, coaxing him back down. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

But there was someone else she’d rather be with.

Ear pressed against her chest, he closed his eyes. Her heartbeat thrummed, its speed increasing and he answered with a rumble. Lithe fingers stroked up his spine and then buried themselves in his hair. With her fingers scraping against his scalp, he allowed himself to relax and the coiled spring inside unwound. Arching back his head, the ache in his belly dimmed as Marinette’s fingers dipped along the line of his jaw to scratch under his chin.

Mewling, he rubbed his face against her, smiling as she squirmed. She never made fun of him when the cat demanded. She never scolded when he pawed at her or gave ‘kitten kisses’. She never complained when he purred. She seemed to enjoy his mewlings as much as he did.

It was only supposed to be once. A moment caught in time, a sadness and a yearning washed away by a brief moment of togetherness. But the once turned into once more and that morphed into many and he couldn’t stay away.
Marinette was a gift.

Her hands were a sin.

He couldn’t get enough of either.

Her prince was a lucky, lucky man, if he ever found the wits to see her for the marvel she was. Purring, Chat Noir lifted his head enough to press his ear into her palm. Of their own accord, his eyes dipped closed in a slow blink.

Marinette slow blinked back.

He leant forward until his forehead brushed hers. The purr in his chest deepened as he rubbed his face against the smooth skin of her cheek. The corner of his lips brushed against the edge of hers.

Marinette stifled a gasp and Chat Noir froze as the air between them supercharged.

There were barriers. Boundaries and consequences and unspoken agreements. While intimate, what they shared had never been sexual. He shied away from areas where she might feel uncomfortable. Trust and respect had been forged, he never took more than she was willing to offer. Never crossed the lines she drew. Every step taken with her permission and acknowledgement.

This was about the cat, not the boy. The cat who needed pats, needed touch and affirmation. Not the boy who craved love and affection. This was about Plagg and his stupid, stupid obsessions which somehow wormed its way into Adrien’s psyche when transformed and manifested as an addiction to being petted.

It wasn’t about the boy, starved and lonely in this cold and rainy world. Nor the girl with her magic hands and endearing smile. The girl with the heart of gold who lived in a bedroom of pink and dots. The girl who held sunlight in her smile. The girl who’d cupped his face and brought her lips to meet his.

His mind emptied, then filled in the space of a breath.

He’d flowed before, drawn in to her embrace, a cool trickle and the haze of want for pets. Now he melted against the heat of her, liquid fire against his lips and the promise of so much more. Taste whirled and when she opened her mouth, his senses flooded. Hot chocolate and honey, caramel and cream. Hot and spice, like the girl beneath him.

Fingers buried in his hair, scratches against the nape. Toes stroking the back of his leg. The non-existent space between their chests burnt with a fire that engulfed him. He lived in the space within the best of both worlds. Her hands were sinful when they caressed his ears and they were sinful when they gripped his shoulders. They were sinful as they stroked his hair and they were sinful traversing the small of his back.

A purr rumbled deep in his chest as he pulled her closer and it was her turn to mew. He let the sound reverberate through his ears and mind, torn between wanting to hear the sound again and wanting to know what other sounds she could make.

She whispered his name around his lips and her hands became a gentle nudge away. She was intoxicating, letting him steal further kisses even as he rose. “Chat.”

Nuzzling, he hummed.

“You’re beeping,” she whispered.

Eyes closed, he let the skin on his face kiss her in lieu of his lips. “I don’t care.”

Her breath fanned against his neck. “Chat—”

“You have cheese and a blind fold.” She turned her face away, so he nibbled on her neck instead.

“That won’t do either of us any good right now.” Soothing, her hands coaxed him back to where she wanted him to be. “It’s stopped raining.”

He didn’t care. “So it has.”

“You should go.”

A cold fist gripped his spine and he didn’t want to open his eyes to see the regret shining on her face. “If that is what you wish.”

How was he going to face her tomorrow? How was he going to pretend he didn’t know about her noises and her hands? How was he to ignore her intoxicating presence behind him now he knew how her lips tasted? How was he to exist without ever tasting them again? It had been hard enough to act normal when it had simply been pets, now how was he supposed to survive?

Fingers curled against his ears to gift him with another scratch. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

Chat Noir’s eyes flashed open. Swollen lips, disheveled hair and a shirt that had both ridden up and been tugged askew, she looked flushed and ripe and… uncertain.

Riveted, he watched as she took her bottom lip in her teeth and asked her question again. “Will I see you tomorrow?”

A cheshire grin burst from his face and he stole one last, lingering kiss. “As you wish, my Princess.”

Chapter Text

Being Adrien was like living in at the bottom of the ocean. No sunlight, only the heavy weight of darkness. Responsibilities pressed against him, duty battered his ego, and desire for approval stole his breath. Couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't be himself. Twisted into the perfect poster child.

In public, every move was criticised. Stand tall, smile but not too brightly, be polite and dignified. Play the part. Be the model citizen. Represent the company. Uphold the family name. Don't let Father down.

In private, his every move was ignored. Bidden and banished to his room, overlooked and forgotten only to be polished to a shine when company came. Shown off like a doll.

He was a puppet. He knew it. There was little he could do. No other family, no money beyond an allowance and he had to wait until he was eighteen before his inheritance was released.

Besides, he didn't want to escape. It wasn't bad. He loved his father and somewhere within the stern exterior, his father loved him too. He was just… overprotective. Looking out for Adrien's best interests. Overprotective and distant, not two traits which melded well together.

A shining light in the darkness delivered Plagg. Mischievous, aloof, freedom and an insatiable thirst for cheese. With Plagg came a ring. A chance. A choice. A destiny.

Now, he could escape. Run across the rooftops of Paris and feel good about himself. Protect the innocent. Be free from the critical eyes of his father. Interact with people instead of being part of the decoration.

Plagg had led him to Ladybug and Adrien was smitten. Beauty and grace and incredible intellect, his heart cried out in yearning. It took time to build trust between them, to act as one weapon in the fight against the akuma, but they'd fallen into a natural rhythm together.

Ladybug was amazing.

It had been hard in the beginning. Adrien didn't know how to be a hero and didn't know how to interact with someone who wasn't telling him what to do but asking for his help. Opening his mouth, all that could come from his lips had been flirtatious remarks and cat puns.

Adrien supposed that was mostly Plagg's doing. Adrien had discovered if he supplied Plagg with enough cheese, he would open up about the past. How he'd supported the Chat Noirs who worked alongside Ladybug for a millennia. How the transformation accumulated the knowledge of all the Chat Noirs before him and guided the young hero's body to follow the actions his mind wanted. His own natural abilities enhanced the transformation, adding fencing to the pool of knowledge. Since that was what he knew the best, he defaulted there a lot of the time. But the parkour, he trusted Plagg.

Sometimes, the gas Plagg got from overeating cheese was worth it for the stories he could tell.

As Chat Noir, he could do things he couldn't do as Adrien. Jump. Leap. Fight. Fall. Flirt.

Oh, how he would flirt, she would rebuff with grace, they would defeat the akuma and they would disappear back into their lives until the next time. No matter what he did, Adrien couldn't get Ladybug to remain. She was an enigma, a tantalising secret, one he both yearned and dreaded to unravel.

He didn't know what he'd do if she ever returned his affection. While she would flirt back in her own subtle way and he would bubble with happiness but he could tell she always held herself carefully in check. Sometimes he preferred it that way, so things wouldn't change between them.

She needed him. He needed her. Together they were two halves of a whole, but there was a line separating them which he couldn't breach. While his hand stretched over the gap, straining for her, hers remained by her side.

Ladybug delivered him Marinette, asking him to protect the girl from an akuma. After the initial shock faded, he noticed how resourceful and brave Marinette was and he saw his classmate in a new light.

Where Ladybug hid away her emotions, Marinette was an open book. When she smiled, her whole body followed the action. When she laughed, it pealed from the heavens. When she was sad, it was as though the heavens themselves had opened up to drown them. When she was silly, she was ridiculous.

Discovering how much he needed pats was an accident.

It was months ago and the need had built slowly. His skin had felt itchy and the sensation increased daily. No matter how much he'd scratched, it hadn't alleviated the itch. He'd tried everything he could think of. Back scratchers, a wall, hot and cold showers, bathing in lotions. He'd considered asking his father to take him to the doctor. He was allergic to feathers, perhaps this was a new allergy. But his father had been away and Nathalie couldn't contact him.

Turning into Chat Noir and trying to outrun the itch had been one of his more crazy ideas.

Something had pulled him, drawn or yanked across the rooftops of Paris, he didn't care. Desperation was his guide as he sought out his lady. She had to be somewhere. She'd know what to do. She could help.

The itch had turned into a frenzy, crawling along his skin and feasting on his flesh. He thought perhaps Plagg fused itching powder inside his suit as a prank but all he could get out of the kwami was some nonsense about the 'nature of a cat'.

God, why wouldn't it just stop? Between his shoulder blades, crawling along his spine, through his hair, behind his ears. What was it? Fleas? Lice? Some other infliction?

Somehow, he'd fallen from the roof onto a terrace and tried to scratch away the rash on the railings. Marinette found him flailing around like a scalded cat, rubbing his spine along a railing to reach an itch that couldn't be scratched.

Her soft voice had called to him, confused and unsure. He'd barely registered her presence before he'd curled up in a ball and begged.

He'd found relief beneath her hands. Cool fingers sought out burning flesh and washed the irritation away. With relief rose a new side of him. Unbidden and unbound. He'd rubbed himself against her hand, leaning into her touch. Face and chest and chin and he found himself in her lap.

The purr surprised them both. The deep rumble within his chest brought him out of the post-scratch haze and he'd stared at her in shock.

Marinette had covered her mouth with a hand and giggled, calling him a silly kitty and dove straight back in to stroke him.

She was the only one who knew. The only one who could help him when the need became too great.

As much as the kiss had been an accident, he couldn't bring himself to regret. She kissed him and now, a day later, he could still taste her on his lips.

Adrien sighed and stared unseeing at his book. He sat on a seat in the quad, staying out of the drizzle while he waited for his driver to arrive. He glanced over at her, sitting on a nearby seat and concentrating on her tablet. He wanted to talk to her as himself, but every time he tried, something when wrong.

This morning they collided on the steps into the school. She'd been late, he hadn't been watching where he'd been going and they'd ended up in a tangled heap. Going crimson, she spluttered an apology then disappearing inside the school before he could respond. Dumbfounded, he'd done little except stare.

She couldn't look at him during class, even after he'd asked if she was okay after the crash. Then Chloé had pounced on him when he'd been in the middle of suggesting to Marinette they share lunch as a group. In gym, when he'd stood next to her and made an idle comment about fencing, she'd fled the room.

Her rousing speech regarding class president showed him and many others how confident and determined she was. She was kind too, always concerned with other classmates over herself. At every akuma attack which occurred at the school (why were there so many?), Marinette was the first to leap into action and get people out. She was brave, so why did Adrien scare her so much she became unable to speak?

When he first knew about her crush, he'd looked for her beloved in the hope he could steer the hapless fool Marinette's way, but even months of careful watching, he couldn't determine who that was. She didn't act love stuck or flirt with anyone.

He couldn't ask her out as himself, not knowing she longed for another. That wasn't fair on either of them.

Wallowing in his own thoughts, he hadn't meant to overhear.

"Marinette, why are you looking at cat toys?"

Adrien glanced over, seeing Alya peering over Marinette's shoulder. "Oh. There's a stray which has been hanging around. Came in through my window to hide from the rain."

Alya plopped down beside her and leant over to view Marinette's tablet. "Oh, really? Planning to adopt? I didn't think your mom would let you."

"It'll be our secret," Marinette said and tapped the side of her nose. "Besides, I don't think he's looking for a home, he just… likes pats."

"What cat doesn't?" Alya said.

"He's been around a few times."

"So, you're looking for ways to entertain him when he visits?"

Marinette laughed. "You could say that."

Adrien raised his eyebrows and tried to pretend he was more engrossed in his book than he was.

"That's cute!" Alya said. "You could make one of those easy."

"I can't," Marinette lamented with a wistful sigh. "He's allergic to feathers."

The raised eyebrows turned into a frown. Had his allergy been in Alya's Ladyblog? He'd have to check.

"You could use wool tassels instead of feathers."

"Then he'd make himself at home in my knitting supplies," Marinette said. "There has to be some rules."

Alya giggled. "Bad kitty. My cousin makes toys for his cat out of scrunched up pieces of paper and string."

Adrien sniffed at the lack of sophistication in a toy like that and turned the page he hadn't read.

"Oh, you have a cat?" Rose asked, catching sight of Marinette's tablet screen. She and Juleka stopped walking to join in on the conversation.

"Marinette's adopting a stray," Alya said, leaning back on the seat to look up at the pair.

"Someone like you would attract strays," Chloé sniffed as she breezed by. Sabrina, holding an umbrella, twittered behind her hand then followed as Chloé clicked her fingers and gestured the rain.

"He made himself at home in my bedroom." Marinette's tone began annoyed, but softened toward the end of her sentence.

"What kind?" Juleka asked.

"Black," Marinette said. "An alley-cat."

"Rad."

"Oh, I love black cats," Rose breathed.

"He has the most gorgeous eyes," Marinette cooed and Adrien felt his heart thump in response. "Brilliant green."

"The black ones do," Rose agreed. "It's the fur that makes them really pop."

Juleka murmured, "Make sure to get him neutered though. You don't want him marking his territory."

Adrien choked, appalled. Marinette made a strangled, gurgling sound.

"The toy mice and the toys which give treats are great to keep cats occupied," Rose continued. "And catnip. It's a must have."

Adrien's eyes widened and he resisted the urge to turn his head and stare at the group. He bent over and pretended to rummage around in his bag so he could whisper, "Hey, Plagg, does catnip work on us?"

Curled up in the corner of the bag, Plagg appeared undaunted. "Is it cheese-flavoured catnip?"

Adrien rolled his eyes. "You're no help."

"You should get me some. We can find out."

Adrien didn't believe Plagg didn't know if it affected him for a moment.

"Do you know about kitty blinks?" Juleka asked.

Now he had to glance over to see Marinette's reaction. The blush told him everything. A yearning swelling in Adrien's chest.

"Oh, it's so cute when they do that," Alya said and slow blinked at Marinette.

Giggling, Marinette slow blinked back at Alya, then, resting her tablet on her lap, gave her best friend a hug.

"What's his name?" Juleka asked and rested her forearms on the back of the bench.

"I don't know," Marinette said.

"He needs a name," Alya said.

"He'll only be around until he finds somewhere better to stay. I shouldn't get too attached."

Startled, Adrien's head snapped to the group. Her voice sounded so forlorn.

"Don't be silly," Alya said. "You'd be a perfect owner. You'd give him treats and tummy rubs. He'll adore you!"

Adore. An interesting word and one that Adrien agreed with. It was a shame she couldn't seem to string two words together around him and he wished, not for the first time, he could remain Chat Noir always. She was comfortable with Chat Noir. His eyes flicked toward the group again. More than comfortable.

He wanted to kiss her again. His mind reeled at the mere thought. Was this an infatuation? Pent up yearning which had found an outlet through Marinette? Or something deeper and riper.

But more than anything, he wanted to know what she wanted. She'd initiated it, but could she regret it now? It must have been hard for her, being so close to someone for such a long time, perhaps she'd been caught in the moment. Had she sent him away so she could collect her thoughts? So she could figure out how to let him down gently?

Except, she looked at cat toys. His presence wasn't unwelcome but perhaps anticipated?

Glancing at his bag, Adrien decided to stuff Plagg until he was so full of cheese their transformation would last long enough for them to have a meaningful conversation with Marinette. Conversation and perhaps, if she was willing, more kisses.

"Hey, dude," Nino said, gripping Adrien's shoulder. He bounced over the back of the seat and flopped down beside Adrien. "Are you reading or checking out the girls?"

Closing his book, he placed it back in his bag. "Bit of both."

Nino turned his head. "What are they giggling over?"

"Marinette's adopting a stray." And the stray wanted to be adopted.

Nino laughed. "Nice."

Grinning, Adrien went to speak, only to be stalled by his phone beeping. Reaching for it, he sighed at the message.

"Already?" Nino asked, disappointed.

Adrien gathered his bag and stood, holding out his fist for Nino to bump. "Duty calls."

Duty. What about his duty to Ladybug? What about his love for her? Could he put that aside?

No matter what, he had to talk to Marinette first.

The trip home was silent. He stared out the window and saw nothing. At home, he trudged up the stairs toward his room, still under a haze of doubt and indecision.

Nathalie strode into the foyer below as he reached the top of the stairs. "Your father wants me to remind you that there's a shoot tomorrow at sunrise."

Adrien paused. Taking out his phone, he checked his appointments. "There's nothing on my schedule."

"The change was made early this morning."

Adrien frowned. "He didn't tell me. I have school."

"It should be finished before school."

He stared at her. "Should be?"

Impassive, Nathalie said, "He wants you to get to bed early."

"Sure." Disappointment filled him and he turned away.

And broke out of the house minutes later. He'd be a dutiful son and do what he was told, but until the sky darkened to night, he was Marinette's.

Chapter Text

Marinette wasn’t home.

Crouching on the window sill, Chat Noir twirled a red carnation between his fingers. Her window was invitingly open, perhaps she’d stepped out for a moment. Or was down in the bakery. It was still drizzling; surely she hadn’t gone out in the rain.

Indecision made him cautious. He sat on the sill with his back to the frame and allowed one leg to dangle. He could write a note. Leave the carnation where she’d see it and come back after doing a patrol. It was pointless to wait when he had no idea when she would return.

Pushing away from the window, he went to her desk. She had a lot of paper scattered around, many with sketches of various pieces of clothing. Searching through them, he was sure he’d be able to find something blank to use.  Finding a blank scrap of paper, he rummaged for a pen next.

“Why are we stalking this poor girl?”

Chat Noir snapped his head up in surprise. Then he whipped his hand behind his back and tucked the stem of the flower into his belt so she didn’t see. Ladybug dangled upside down at the window, peering into Marinette’s room. “My lady!” he blurted and hurried to the window.

Taking his offered hand, Ladybug descended and rolled until her feet were on the window sill. “Is there trouble?”

“I was passing through and thought I’d visit.”

Ladybug rested a hand on her hip. “Most people don’t like it when someone pokes through their rooms when they’re not around.”

“I wasn’t poking.” Sheepish, Chat Noir pointed to his note. “I was…”

“I see.” Her fingers drummed against her hip. “Well, hurry up.  As gallant as you are, I’m not leaving you unattended.”

Chat Noir scrambled for the pen. “My lady doesn’t mind?” he asked as he scribbled out an apology for Marinette and a promise to see her later. He could feel Ladybug’s eyes on him, but he kept his back hidden from her.

“Marinette’s cute, yes?”

Thinking back to earlier, he replied, “Marinette is adorable. You think I’m gallant?”

He could almost feel the roll of her eyes. “Don’t let it go to your head. You think Marinette is adorable?”

He glanced at her to gauge her reaction. “Absolutely. She’s kind and considerate and brave and makes the most delicious cookies.”

Ladybug smiled. “Well, she lives above the best bakery in Paris.”

Footsteps from below and both Ladybug and Chat Noir panicked. If it was Marinette, he hoped she wouldn’t mind two superheros hanging out in her room, but if it wasn’t her…

Ladybug pounced and bundled him up the stairs to Marinette’s bed. “Trap door, go!”

Trying to be as sneaky as he could, he dropped the flower on Marinette’s bed as he vaulted feet first through the trap door above. As he escaped, he caught sight of the attic door in Marinette’s floor creaking open. “Marinette!” Alya called. “I brought kitty gifts!”

Landing on Marinette’s terrace, Chat Noir turned to aid Ladybug. Grabbing her hand to pull her through the trap door, he extended his baton and launched them upward and to the roof of the next building. The pair of them charged along the rooftops away from the bakery.

“Kitty gifts,” Ladybug muttered under her breath.

“That was close.”

Increasing her speed, Ladybug sprinted for the next gap in the buildings.  “The gifts wouldn’t be for you, would they, kitty?”

Heat flooded his face as he bounded along beside her. “I wouldn’t know.”

She gave him a shrewd look, then vaulted over the gap. “You had a flower tucked in your belt.”

Caught, he missed a step in his spring and fell short of the gap. Before he could think about rescuing himself, Ladybug’s yo-yo zipped down and twined around his wrist.

“Are you okay, kitty?” Ladybug asked as she pulled him back up to the roof.

“Thanks for the save, my lady, the rain makes things slippery,” he murmured as he brushed himself off.

“I see.”

“Meet you at Notre Dame?”

“I bet I can get my patrol done faster than you can!”

Not hearing the enthusiasm in her voice, Chat Noir nodded and tipped a two finger salute at her. “Alright.”

With a questioning look, Ladybug left at a more sedate pace.

Patrol was uneventful. The rain deterred criminals and akuma’s alike. Stopping on top of Notre Dame, Chat Noir sat beside a gargoyle and copied its position as he cast his eyes over Paris.

A yo-yo wrapped around the gargoyle’s neck, then Ladybug landed beside it. “You beat me.”

“A distinct lack of action today,” he said.

“Petty thieves and thugs,” she commented and stroked her fingers along the gargoyles head. Water dripped from her pigtails and ran down her shoulders. “No one in their right minds out would be out for long today.”

Chat Noir scrubbed the water from his face and shook his head from side to side to dislodge some water. “Guess we’re not in our right minds.”

“Such is the life of a hero. I could go for a hot chocolate and a good book in bed.”

He nodded, wondering if Marinette was home yet. “That sounds nice.”

Ladybug’s attention seemed to be more on him than on Paris. “Okay, what’s wrong?”

Chat Noir lifted his head. “Huh?”

“That was a purr-fect opportunity and you missed it. You haven’t even made a single pun all afternoon.”

He couldn’t even remember what she’d said, “That’s a cat-tastrophy.”

“Nice try, lame, and doesn’t get you out of it.”

Chat Noir said nothing.

She bent over, resting her elbows on the top of the gargoyle and her chin in her hands. “Chat?”

“Do you ever feel like you wear a mask in both lives? That no one knows the real you?”

She considered him. “No.”

“Are you different as yourself?”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you?”

“I don’t think anyone really knows me. Even me.” He shook himself. “What am I talking about? We don’t do this.”

“Do what?”

“Talk.”

Ladybug laughed. Reaching over, she scratched him behind the ears. “Silly kitty, we talk.”

The effect was instant. Chat Noir’s eyes slid closed and he leant against her hand. He flopped sideways against the gargoyle with his arms draped over the top. His chin hit the stone of the gargoyle’s head and his chest pressed against its side.

Two hands on two ears and he was a slave to sensation. A purr rumbled in his chest and, rising up, he butted the top of his head against her chin. She buried her fingers in his hair and the angle of her hands pulled his head back, allowing him to rub his cheek against hers. Stifling a giggle, she moved one hand to beneath his chin and walked two fingers up and down his throat.

She was good. Any minute now, he’d be ready to curl up in her lap. Marinette certainly knew how to get his spots.

Marinette.

Chat Noir jerked back and fell against the awning. On his back, he crawled away. Eyes wide, heart sliding up his throat and then down to pit of his stomach, Chat Noir’s head reeled.

Bemused, Ladybug peered over the top of the gargoyle. “Chat?”

“I— I— gotta go,” he blurted, then bolted.

Scrambling on all fours, he slid along the awnings of Notre Dame until he could find his feet. He fled across the buildings of Paris without purpose or direction, using all the skills Plagg had bestowed on him. He sprinted, bounced, leapt and batoned until he was well beyond his normal endurance. Finally collapsing against a bricked chimney, he stared up at the grey sky and gulped at the air.

His ring beeped and he released his transformation, cupping his hands beneath the falling Plagg.

“Did you have to?” he complained, flopping in Adrien’s hand dramatically. “I have a belly ache!”

Water ran down Adrien’s face. “Sorry.”

“I thought we were going to see Marinette, not patrol.”

“Sorry.”

“So, Ladybug pats, huh?”

Adrien reached into his shirt and pulled out his emergency stash of cheese. Unwrapping it, he held it out to his kwami.

Plagg zipped through the air to snatch the cheese. “You don’t seem too happy about it.”

“I’m not.”

“You can get pats from two people at once, you know.” Coy, Plagg patted his cheese to illustrate.

“Just eat.”

Plagg nibbled on a corner, far slower than he usually ate. “We’re transforming again?”

Adrien sighed and rested his arms on his knees. “I need to see Marinette.”

“Oh good! I want to thank her for the cheese bread.”

Adrien studied his small friend. “She must be something if you’re willing to let yourself be seen.”

Plagg’s grin was full of secrets. “Her cheese bread certainly is.”

“If you’re quick, I’ll ask her for more.”

Plagg tossed the cheese in the air and gulped it. “Yum!”

Like she was most other times he’d arrived at her place, Marinette sat on her chaise with a notepad on her lap. He watched from the window as she towel dried her hair. Had she been outside?

Silent, he crouched on the sill of her open window and watched her. Excited and nervous, he didn’t know how he felt. He didn’t know what to say or what he should say. His father didn’t teach him how to pick up girls and Nino wasn’t the best example.

Watching her redo her pigtails was soothing. She was practiced and her hair fell into place like it was a natural state of being. Once she finished, she picked up her sketchpad.

Perhaps she didn’t want to be disturbed, but he couldn’t sit here and watch her. That was creepy. He either had to announce himself or leave. He sighed and covered half his face with his hand.

There was a red dot on her wall.

Chat Noir twitched. His attention riveted on the dot. Nothing else existed, just him and the dot.

It moved. Chat Noir trembled. It skipping down from the wall and onto the floor where it drew lazy circles on the floor.

The dot. Mine!

Tail lashing, he pounced, all four limbs intent on tackling the small dot. He swiped at it and it moved away, dancing across the floor to waver just out of reach.

Landing where the dot had been was easy, but it was too quick for him, darting away moments before he landed. He scuttled around the floor chasing after the dot. Limbs didn’t want to work in tandem as each of them seemed to want to get the dot first. He flailed on the floor, crashing into the wall or chairs as he chased down the elusive dot.

Up the wall, across the floor, under the desk, haunting a rug that shot out from beneath him when he pounced and left him sliding across the floor.

Yowling, he scurried on all fours, pouncing on the dot as it lingered by the base of the chaise. Lifting away his hands, he looked at the empty spot on the floor. “Aww what? I had it.”

A hand came down from the chaise to scratch his ear. “Such a silly kitty.”

He blinked at Marinette. “Oh.” Staying where he was on the floor, he draped his arms on the chaise by her feet in a failed effort to appear suave. “Hi.”

She giggled. “Hi.”

“Laser pointer?”

Marinette tossed a small, cylindrical device to him. “You didn’t look like you were going to come in.”

He laughed. “Sneaky.”

“I thought you’d appreciate that more than a squeaky mouse or a woolen tassel.”

“You have a squeaky mouse?” he asked, perking up.

She bopped him on the nose. “Alya left a whole bunch of toys. We can check them later, if you want.”

He had to pretend he didn’t know why. “Why did Alya leave toys?”

“I… might’ve mentioned a stray hanging around. She brought gifts.”

He grinned. “Are you going to adopt me? Do you give tummy rubs?”

Pink bloomed on her cheeks and she dropped eye contact. “Is Paris safe?”

“Paris is wet. Any self-respecting person would be holed up inside.” Reaching up, he tweaked her pigtail. “Did you go out?”

“Had a delivery,” she explained. “I wasn’t expecting you to come so early. Thank you for the flower.”

Reaching out, he cupped a hand around her ankle. “We need to talk.”

She set her sketchpad aside to rest her hands in her lap. “Why?”

He stroked her ankle with his thumb and fixed his eyes on the pink nail polish on her toes. “I… er… Ladybug scratched my ears today.”

Marinette’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Isn’t that what you wanted?”

He shook his head. “It wasn’t right.”

“It’s just an ear scratch—”

“It means something to me.”

She blinked. “It does?”

He tilted his head. “Do you think I roam around letting pretty girls pet me?”

Bewilderment looked cute on her.  “But—”

He smirked at her. “Princess, half the time you scratch my ears, I end up on top of you. It’s pretty intimate. I don’t do that with anyone else.” 

Crimson flooded her cheeks. “Oh… I thought…”

“No one else knows. I couldn’t let her pat me without knowing where things stood with you.”

“She’s what you’ve been waiting for.”

“I kissed you.”

Marinette shook her head. “I kissed you, you just went along with it.”

“I could’ve stopped it if I wanted to. I didn’t want to.”

Sorrow in her smile. “It doesn’t have to mean anything if—”

“I’m not like that.”

Marinette stretched out her hand and trailed her fingers down his face. “A handsome boy like you, you must have the girls fawning over you. Even Ladybug.”

Turning his head, he kissed her fingers. “You’re the one I’m interested in.”

Her mouth dropped open and she paled. “Me? Me over Ladybug?” Her chest barely moved yet she sounded as though she gasped in breath. Her stunned, adorable image left its imprint on his heart.

He was more than happy to reassure her. He shifted up from the floor to sit on the chaise before her and his hand on her ankle slid up to her knee. “Ladybug and I are partners. Friends. But she’s made herself clear that she’s not interested in me. I can’t pine away for her forever. I… I adore you, Marinette. You’re cute and sweet and I want to get to know you better.” He let his voice become deeper and husky. “I’ve been thinking about you all day. You race through my thoughts so fast you eclipse everything else. I’d like to kiss you again.”

Marinette’s hand had covered her mouth while he’d been talking. Rapidly blinking, he watched distress dance across her face.

He swallowed. “You regret it, don’t you? Do you want to wait for your prince?”

Her hand dropped. “Chat, it’s not— I don’t regret it at all but… how would it work?” she asked. “We can’t date. We can’t stroll down the street hand-in-hand. Would you be happy kissing me in secret?”

He couldn’t answer that. “Would you?”

“I can’t put my family in danger.”

Aghast, he blurted, “I wouldn’t—”

“You wouldn’t but your enemies? The press? The fangirls. They’d be all over me.”

Chat Noir drooped. “Yeah.” She didn’t like him as his alter-ego so there was no point suggesting that. He wasn’t even sure if he was allowed to tell people who he was. Placing his feet flat on the floor, he turned away from her.

Marinette shuffled forward until she knelt behind him and buried her hand in his hair to scratch, prompting him to lean back against her shoulder. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she murmured.

His eyes glazed. “I know.”

Kneading a spot behind his left ear, she nosed him below his right. “And I know you don’t want to hurt me.”

Eyes slipping closed, he resisted the need to purr. “Never.”

She rubbed her cheek against his and he wondered if she was part cat herself. “I can’t see how this could be anything more than a guilty little secret.”

“That wouldn’t be fair on either of us.”

Her fingers worked his ears, both real and costume. “No.”

The need got the better of him. With a rumbled purr he relaxed into her.  “You have me at a disadvantage.”

Her voice turned husky. “Do you want me to stop?”

He turned his head toward her and let his lips linger near hers in invitation. “Do you?”

Their voices said they shouldn’t but neither of them made a move to part. Reason said no, their hearts resounded yes. Somehow, amid the ear scratches and glazed looks, they’d reached a mutual understanding. It would hurt in the end but he went in with eyes wide open.

He reached back and grasped her neck so he could tilt her head and take her lips for his own. The speed at which she melted against him suggested she’d been waiting for it. Without releasing her mouth, he stood and turned so he could get his arms around her. One to her neck, the other to her waist, he crawled toward her and coaxed her to lie down.

She knew how to make him purr. Scritch and scratch, stroke and caress. With the added sensation of her lips, he rumbled like a motor without pause. In return, she buzzed against him, her heartbeat fluttering like insect wings.

The tip of her tongue came into tentative play and he answered by taking her lip between his teeth. Marinette ran clawed hands up his sides to clutch his shoulders.

Ever the mood killer, Plagg exhausted himself and the ring beeped.

Marinette restrained herself. Chat Noir couldn’t. “I want to kiss you as myself.”

A soft moan. “Chat, we shouldn’t—”

“Blindfold. Please. Just a little longer.”

She bit her bottom lip and he kissed her so he could do it for her. A mewling gasp and she slid her hands above her head to dig under her cushions. The sight of her arms above her head and her head back made his heart cartwheel. He took the opportunity stroke his hands down her forearms and nip her neck.

Giggling, Marinette lifted her shoulder to her neck and breathed his name. Retrieving a swathe of clothe discarded beneath the pillows the night before, she rested it against her eyes.

As she lifted her head to tie the blindfold, he pecked her lips. “There’s something sexy about that.”

She smiled. “Don’t get any ideas. It’s only to stop temptation.”

“Except that it makes you even more enticing.”

As Plagg fled, the purr ceased and Marinette made a mournful noise. Adrien agreed with her, he wanted to continue to show his adoration through a purr. He could still feel it inside him, muted and distant. How much would it take to coax that purr into being as himself? He strove to find out.

Adrien felt the small kwami flop on his back and complain and was ignored. Crawling to Adrien’s shoulder, Plagg appealed to Marinette.

“Cheese bread,” Marinette whispered between kisses and waved her hand toward her desk.

“Marinette, you are a gem!”

It seemed unfair to kiss her as himself when he knew she didn’t like him but he was well beyond the point of rational thought. He wanted to taste, nip and suck. Stroke and soothe and be as close to her as he could. He wanted to let his hands roam across her body instead of holding himself in check and allowing her to explore him.

He could hear whispering. Why was Plagg talking to the bread?

He lost himself in her. He breathed her in and allowed her scent to filter down through the depths of him. His head reeled with sensation.

A bell from downstairs, then, “Marinette! Could you give me a hand?”

Marinette gasped and struggled. “It’s my mom!”

Adrien leapt away, backing across the room. “I—”

Marinette sat up, holding the blindfold across her eyes and waved toward the window. “Go.”

As Adrien bolted to the desk to grab Plagg, he thought he saw something red flash. Too quick and his mind was elsewhere as he leapt up onto the window sill.

“Be careful!” Plagg cautioned and clutched at Adrien’s shoulder. “Slippery when wet!”

“I got this,” Adrien said and scaled the wall down into the street below. “Easy.”

Hunching his shoulders to protect himself from the rain, Adrien set off for him with a bright smile on his face. 

Chapter Text

“ACHOO!”

Adrien dabbed his nose with his handkerchief and tried to remain still to stop his head spinning.  His throat felt scratchy, like he’d swallowed a hedgehog and his eyes itched. There was a tickle in his chest, threatening a developing cough.  “I’m sorry, I really think—”

“It’s these flowers!” Pierre, the photographer complained. “It must be the pollen! Where’s the florist?”

An easy mistake; the room was covered in all sorts of flora. It was necessary since he posed for a poster for Au nom de la Rose and Pierre knew Adrien had a feather allergy. “It’s not the flowers,” Adrien protested and slumped his shoulders. “I got caught in the rain yesterday and—”

“LINNEA!” Pierre bellowed.

The small woman rushed over. “Yes?”

“The flowers are making him sneeze. Fix it.”

Adrien tried to interject. “It’s not the flowers—” Pausing, he tried to resist the tickle in his nose and failed.

“See?” Pierre blustered and waved his hands at Linnea. “Poor Adrien is so ill from their stench. You were supposed to ensure they were frozen last night so he wouldn’t be subject to their pollen.”

“But they were,” Linnea insisted. “They haven’t been out of the fridge for long at all. And they’ve been sprayed, snap frozen and de-pollened. They’ve been arranged so those flowers with the most pollen are located at the back, away from—”

Pierre tossed up his hands, in full tantrum. Adrien really hated when Pierre went into diva mode.  “I don’t want your excuses!”

Adrien stood from his position and carefully extracted himself from the abundance of colourful flowers. “Pierre! It’s cool. I’m sick, that’s all.”

“Yes!” Pierre said. “I’m sick too! Sick of the ineptitude of my staff!”

Linnea shook her head. “It’s not my fault! I did everything I could to ensure the flowers would be perfect for the shoot. If you’d just listen—”

“This is the last straw, Linnea! You’re fired. Begone!”

Adrien’s jaw dropped as Linnea burst into tears and fled the room. “Pierre! That was unprofessional. I’m sick and it wasn’t her fault.”

“Reset!” Pierre announced, still ignoring Adrien as he waved his arms around. “I am losing the romance!”

Frowning, Adrien decided he wasn’t going to endure Pierre today and turned on the brat. “I’m not posing. I’m out.”

Astounded, Pierre swivelled. “Adrien!”

“I am sick!” Adrien scolded. “I am not allergic to flowers and you fired Linnea based on a temper tantrum.” Channelling Chloé, he snapped, “My father will not be pleased.” With either of them.

Stalking to his bag, Adrien threw the strap over his shoulder and dug around inside for his phone. Pierre’s protests fell on deaf ears and the palm of Adrien’s hand as he removed himself from the area. Dialling his father’s number, Adrien waited.

Message bank, as usual. The man was unreachable, even this early in the morning. Sighing, Adrien waited for the message to cycle before he said, “I’m sick. I must’ve caught a bug or something from the rain, but Pierre blamed my sneezing on the flowers and fired the florist without due cause. I’m walking out in protest because it was my fault. I’m sorry, I know this shoot was important but it wasn’t right and—”

A scream and Adrien closed his eyes. “Oh, of course,” he muttered and hung up.

“I am Tiger Lily and I will return natural beauty to the world!”

Adrien didn’t need to see the akuma to sense its presence swell. It would undoubtedly be Linnea, caught in a moment of emotion and twisted to serve. Especially with a name like Tiger Lily. Bright and orange with dark splotches and a large, petal-leaf hat perched on her head, she commanded flowering vines to attack those around her.

Staff and models screamed and fled. Pierre was already trussed up, held above the ground while wrapped up in a flowering wisteria vine.

Looking around for a place to hide, he nudged his bag. “Plagg, we’re needed.”

Plagg poked his head out. “It’s too early.”

Adrien’s eyes landed on Pierre’s office. “Evil doesn’t wait.”

“Adrien, you’re sick,” Plagg said as Adrien ran. “It won’t disappear with the Miraculous. We’ll drain fast.”

“I know. I’ll be okay.”

“Wait for Ladybug.”

 Another scream and Adrien dove into the room and hid behind the desk. “Can’t.”

Plagg floated up until he was level with Adrien’s face. “Promise me you’ll call her the moment you’re transformed.”

“Absolutely. Plagg, Claws Out!”

The transformation flowed through him, igniting his body and shaping it into something more, something better than the original. Strength, agility, energy to burn, and a literal library of puns.

Grabbing his baton, he clicked on two-way communication he had with Ladybug and waited. Even if she wasn’t transformed, the signal would relay through her miraculous partner. While waiting for her to answer, he went to get some intel.

Creeping back out to the studio, he was amazed at the transformation. There were brightly coloured flowers everywhere, growing along the walls, in cracks in the brickwork or through broken parcels of the floor. Brilliant purple wisteria vines, soft pink cherry blossom trees, petunias and lilacs, tulips and roses and so many more that Chat Noir couldn’t name. As he watched, the flowers broke the large, arched windows of the studio and spilled out into the cobblestone street beyond.

When he spotted a small bush with bells of delicate white flowers, he was glad for the stuffy nose.

“It’s early.”

Smiling, he hid behind a shrub. “Tell that to the akuma.” Angling the baton into the air, he gave her a glimpse of what he was dealing with.

“Oh, that’s gorgeous!” she cooed, then her voice went deadpan. “But I hope you didn’t call me this early to get me flowers.”

“Huh?” he asked, then checked what he was pointing the baton at. “No. Her. Not the flowers.” He lowered the baton so he could look at her.

He could see the background behind Ladybug blurred and her hair flowed in the wind as she ran. “Alright, I have your location, I’m on my way.”

Grinning, Chat Noir said, “Then we can get to the root of the problem. Hurry, there’s not mushroom for more of them.”

A groan from his lady. “Really?”

“Aww, and I thought that one was oak-ay.”

A hand covered her face. “They’re flowers, not trees.”

“Well, that’s just dande-lion.”

“Would you stop?” she whined.

The puns were flowing today. “I saw what yew did there.”

Stoooop.”

He sneezed, his whole body shaking.

Concern instead of frustration. “Are you allergic to flowers too?”

He sniffed and wished his handkerchief hadn’t changed with his suit. “A cold.”

“Poor kitty, you have such bad luck.”

A vine wrapped around Chat Noir’s ankle and hoisted him into the air and he dropped his baton.

“I thought I heard a kitty sneeze,” Tiger Lily cooed. “Poor little sap.”

Folding his arms on his chest, he smirked. “That pun was a-pollen.” Using his stomach muscles, he hoisted himself up to his foot and slashed at the vine with his claws. When free, he somersaulted before he landed, scooped up his baton, then vaulted to one of the broken windows. “Let’s take it outside. It’s getting stuffy in here.”

He knew there was a courtyard near Pierre’s studio and, with the early hour, it would be deserted. Plenty of space for Tiger Lily to grow things and for him to stall until Ladybug arrived. 

Tiger Lily didn’t walk so much as was carried by her river of flowering vines as she lifted to the window to follow him. Darting into the street, Chat Noir found himself dodging fast growing catnip plants as they erupted through the pavement.

“I have a cold, ma’am. Those plants don’t work.”

“Perhaps some elderberry flowers will aid that!” Tiger Lily announced as bushes burst from the ground ahead of him. 

“Don’t you have to have tea from that?” Chat Noir asked as he dodged them. Taking out his baton, he vaulted over the top of one. As he lifted the baton away from the ground, he swiped at a vine which came rushing toward him.

Everywhere he turned, flowers blocked his way. Every time he tried to attack Tiger Lily, he had to dodge fast moving flowering vines. Flowering hedges erupted ahead of him and boxed him in. He slid to a stop and crouched on all fours. Turning back, he studied Tiger Lily, trying to determine where the akuma hid. His eyes darted across her. Her petal hat, her suit –so similar to Ladybugs–, a silver charm bracelet, and—

What was that delightful smell? Delicious and wonderful and he wanted to curl up in a ball and rub—

Horror melted his knees. “Oh. No.”

A smirk. “Oh yes.”

His hand shot to his nose to hold it in the hope to decrease the scent. Catnip. Everywhere. Pretty little bushes with tiny white or purple flowers. An implosion of colour and smell, Tiger Lily had packed as much of the plant as she could into a small space and somehow he could smell it through the cold.

Mouth open so he could breathe, he could taste the scent on the air. He clapped his hand over his mouth in an attempt to filter the air and hunkered low.

The world swam, dipping in an out of focus. Shallow breaths didn’t help, he could feel want and need flowing through him. Feet fell before him and the colour betrayed a deep orange, not a beloved red. He couldn’t be swept away. Wouldn’t.

Not now. Not now!

A hand gripped his wrist, yanking it away from his nose and he felt cold fingers against his finger. His ring. Plagg. He couldn’t allow this.

Holding his breath, he threw everything he had behind one last action. Snatching her bracelet from her wrist, he cupped both hands around it. “Cataclysm!”

The bracelet disintegrated and the akuma fluttered against his palms. Tiger Lily fell but the flowers remained.

He had to hold on. Had to endure until Ladybug came.

Shallow breaths. Little gaps. His face buried in the crook of his elbow. A quivering between his palms.

An eternity later, cool hands pressed over his. “You can let go now, Chat.”

He crumpled. The ground became Marinette’s hands and he lost himself in the haze of imaginary pats. He sprawled, rubbing himself against the stone, rolled over so he each part of himself could receive scratches. Hands and feet battered imaginary butterflies in the air as he rolled from side to side.

Ecstasy. Using the heels of his feet, he scooted around on his back until a flailing arm brushed a shrub.

A plant. Flowery ambrosia. Tasty and delicious, if he could eat those flowers and take the scent into himself, he could bathe in its goodness for an eternity. Slithering along the ground on his belly, he stretched out his hand and—

Something had his tail.

“Kitty, let’s get you out of here.”

Something soft he could rub against! He twisted and rubbed his face against a leg. Up his cheek, across his lips and down the other side, until every part of his face had been caressed. His purr vibrated through him and into her. Knees! Oh, knees were perfect. Groves and bumps and a combination of hard and soft depending on whether he went up or down. A belly. Oh, a belly he could hug and press his face against and—

Fingers pressed against shoulders and he flopped back to the ground and stared at the sky.

“Ooookay… you’re high.”

Hands wrapped around his chest and hoisted, but he couldn’t find his feet and all he could do was drape himself against a lithe body and purr. Eyes closed, he didn’t even try to move anymore. He’d fallen too deep into a catnip induced trance.

When awareness returned he lay staring at the sky. The concrete beneath him was hard and uncomfortable, but he couldn’t find the energy to move. Turning his head, he saw Ladybug standing a small distance away, her back to him and cradling something in her hands. He groaned and lifted an ungloved hand to his head.

Ungloved. Ungloved and de-clawed. He tensed. He was Adrien. She knew he was Adrien.

Ladybug’s head lifted but she didn’t turn around. “Are you awake?”

He squeaked.

“I didn’t look.”

“Oh.” Sitting up made him dizzy so he remained lying down.

“Plagg seems to have absorbed the worst of the catnip coma. He should be okay. Take it easy for a few days though.”

“Thank you.” He cleared his throat, trying to remove the sudden huskiness in his voice, but it remained. “I… er… did I… I seem to remember rubbing against… did I do anything that... um…”

“You were a gentleman, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I… um….”

“Are you always this articulate as yourself?” she asked and he could hear the smile in her tone.

“Ahh...”

A soft laugh to reassure him. “Relax. I’m teasing. You were very affectionate and that’s okay. It’s not your fault. You handled the situation admirably.”

“Thanks.” Taking it slow, he propped himself up on his elbows. “Ugh… I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.”

“That would be an adequate representation.”

He studied her back. “Um… about yesterday and the pat. I shouldn’t have run.”

She tensed. Her head turned and she caught herself. “I should’ve asked. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I thought… it doesn’t matter.” She shifted her weight to her other foot. “Plagg explained.”

He flushed and wondered exactly what Plagg explained. “It’s cool. You didn’t know.”

“But I should’ve. You’re my partner. You’re a Miraculous. I should’ve realised I wasn’t the only one affected by our duality and been more accommodating to your needs.”

He didn’t like the way she made it sound so clinical. “My lady?”

She sighed. “I… like to grow things. It’s compulsive sometimes but I can restrict myself. As Ladybug… I check for aphids constantly. Sometimes I catch myself wondering what they taste like.” She made a frustrated noise. “I hate the cold. It makes me slow and weak, even as myself.” She waved her free hand. “Snow burns and we live in Paris! Christmas time sucks because all I want to do is sleep.”

Adrien got the sense she was holding herself carefully in check so she didn’t look at him on accident.  By the twitch in her legs, she’d rather be pacing.

“And then there’s the pheromones and…” she caught herself. “The point is, I let you down.”

Knowing she had similar problems made him feel less alone. “No, you didn’t.”

“My needs, I can take care of by myself. Yours…” She held her hand where he could see a sleeping Plagg cradled in her palm. Reaching out with a finger, she stroked Plagg’s belly.

“I’m fine.”

“I should’ve been the one to help you. We’re partners. It’s— our team dynamic matters. We need to be able to act as one. I’ve always worried a change in status would ruin that and we’d lose something.”

Finding the strength to sit, he wrapped his arms around his knees. “Or gain something.”

“While you were… you called me Marinette.”

His heart fragmented. He went still, blood draining away from his face. She sounded lost and forlorn and he didn’t understand why. He wished he could move so he could comfort her. Something heavy filled the space between them. “Ladybug—”

“If you ask… I’ll tell you who I am.”

Adrien’s eyes widened. It was all he’d ever wanted, to know her in both lives.

Fear slammed against him. Knowing who she was would change things, especially right now. He embarked on something new with Marinette and now Ladybug offered this. Could she be jealous? Could she, after months of holding him at arm’s length, be remorseful now she knew he was with someone else?

It didn’t make sense; she wasn’t like that. Something else was going on and he didn’t know what.

Why now? That was the real question. Why did she offer this now?

And why was he so hesitant to accept it?

He loved her. Truly he did. Seeing her in pain made him ache inside but he'd made the choice to be with Marinette. He wanted to be with Marinette.

Why was this so difficult? Why was he torn?

Words found form. “No.”

“No?”

He staggered as he pushed himself to his feet. “No. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the offer but it’s not right. I don’t want you to feel forced. I want you to tell me because you're ready, not because you’re afraid of losing me.” Walking toward her, he placed his hand on her shoulder from behind. “My lady, I am always going to be here for you when you need it. That’s what friends are for.”

Her free hand lifted up to touch his. “Thank you, Chat.” She dismissed the melancholy with a shake of her shoulders. If only it was that easy for him. “I’m being silly. I’m really glad you found her.”

He smiled at the sincerity in her voice. She really did sound happy for him. “I like her. And don’t worry, my lady, tulips are better than one.”

She laughed and patted his hand. “You’re dreadful. Don’t ever change.” She shook her head and lay Plagg on the awning with a tenderness which made his heart clench. “Go home, Chat. Get some rest.”

Chapter Text

Adrien sighed in boredom and discarded his controller. Flopping back on his bed, he stared at the roof. It was dark outside, but he wasn’t tired. He couldn’t sleep; he was full of pent up, nervous energy and wanted to move around.

Three days confined to his bed, with only one day necessary for recovery. Plenty of time to think and ponder.

His father had taken one look at him, sneezing and suffering the aftereffects of a catnip coma, and sent for the doctor, who diagnosed exhaustion. While grateful for his father’s attention, a doctor's diagnosis of exhaustion meant coddling from a distance. His father still had work and spent the majority of his time in his office, but he cancelled a trip so he could stay home.

Unable to attend class, go fencing or see friends, Adrien quickly tired of being housebound. His phone remained silent. Nino messaged when he could, but between school, homework and Nino’s other commitments, the messages were scattered.

Plagg had been lethargic the last few days, which meant Chat Noir had been absent. The Ladyblog had noted the absence and said that Ladybug didn’t appear  concerned about his absence.  Hopefully Marinette wouldn’t worry. Plagg needed care and Adrien wouldn’t rush him.

Ladybug confused him. He seemed to be in a perpetual state of bewilderment lately. Ladybug confused him, Marinette confused him. He felt torn between them and didn’t know how to reconcile with himself. Marinette was new and exciting and she wanted to be with him. Ladybug burned deep in his soul and she was safe to love; She didn’t want things to change so it would never hurt if it didn’t work, because it couldn’t start.

He didn’t think Ladybug’s offer of identity held malicious intent. He'd taken it as an offer of trust. She had people to protect, family who loved her. She was just trying to find a place in his heart as he offered it to another. She’d been right about their team dynamics. They had to trust each other implicitly or they’d fail. Still, the offer had blindsided him.

In all honesty, he didn’t know how thing with Marinette would work long term but he wasn’t willing to give her up either. Next time he saw her, he really should keep his lips off her long enough to get her phone number.

“You want to go see her, don’t you?” Plagg asked.

Adrien looked at Plagg, lounging on the bed beside him. “What?”

“You’ve been sighing and staring off into space. It’s not hard to tell when someone in love is pining.”

Adrien thought about that. “I don’t know that I’m in love.”

Plagg smirked. “But you are pining for her.”

Adrien glared. “Shut up.”

Plagg chortled.

“Have you ever been in love?” He frowned and shook a finger. “With someone. Not cheese.”

“I’m not heartless,” Plagg said, giving Adrien an evil eye. He sighed and stretched his paws out in front of him, lifting his behind to stretch like a cat does. Yawning, he completed a walking circle and curled into a ball.

When it didn’t look like Plagg would elaborate, Adrien prompted, “Another kwami?”

Plagg gave him a look, then snuggled into the pillow and closed his eyes. “Duh.”

“What happened to her?” Adrien’s eyes widened. “Or him. Or—”

“Nothing,” Plagg interrupted, sparing Adrien’s babble. “She is perfectly safe. She has her duty, her Miraculous, and I have mine.”

“She’s a Miraculous too? Is she Ladybug’s? Or are there more?”

“There are more,” Plagg said. “Many more but that is not for your ears.”

Sitting up in bed, Adrien crossed his legs and gave Plagg his full attention. “Tell me about her.”

Plagg sighed dramatically. “Human words are too crude and limited to describe what we are. She is the other half of me and I am the other half of her. Together we are more, but we rarely come together.” He tapped his chest. “She is here, always.”

Adrian felt sad for his friend. After three days of not seeing Marinette, he missed her. What would it be like to be Plagg? “But you don’t get to see her.”

He laughed. “She complains about cheese too much. Small doses is better. We’ve had millennia together, spending a few decades apart here and there does wonders for that whole human saying; ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’.”

Adrien stilled. “I’m nothing more than a blip to you, am I?”

Plagg opened his eyes. “Adrien—”

“You’ve had so many Chat Noirs, how are any of us memorable to you?”

“Every Chat Noir has had something to offer. You’re chosen.”

“And you live millennias, I’ll live eighty years if I’m lucky. Blink and I’m gone.” He snapped his fingers to illustrate.

“Do you know why I like cheese?” Plagg asked.

Adrien reared his head back. “Because you have expensive taste?”

“One of my Miraculous invented it. Would’ve been…hmmm… seven millennia ago. Back then, it was crude. Tasteless. But for me, it was the most divine thing in the world because she made it. I remember them all.” Plagg sat up, more serious than Adrien had ever seen them. “I bond, I live with them for their life and then they go, and I mourn. I exist within the ring until I’m needed and then I live again. We mourn them all, but like Tikki, I carry a piece of them in my heart always. Even you, Adrien.”

Adrien was deeply touched. “Plagg—”

Plagg placed a paw against his head and swooned. “I must be delirious. All this serious talk will end me.” He peeked open an eye. “If you can find it in your heart to get me some more cheese, I may be able to transform for a while.”

“Not impressed,” Adrien said as he rose to his feet. “But fine.”

“They used to worship me in Egypt,” Plagg lamented.

“They also practiced human sacrifice,” Adrien told him as he headed for the door.

“Only in the First Dynasty!”

Padding to the kitchen, Adrien was unsurprised to find a skeleton overnight staff. His father was home and often worked late into the night. People needed to available to cater for Gabriel’s whim.

Although work hesitated as he walked in, he decided against pestering anyone for food. He headed to the fridge and pulled out a pre-prepared fruit platter and a wedge of cheese. So he wouldn’t have to talk, he took a large bite out of a juicy red apple while still in the fridge and then closed it with a foot. Smiling around a mouthful of apple, he nodded to the cook and carried his spoils out of the kitchen.

“Your appetite has returned, I see.”

Adrien paused at his doorway and swallowed the mouthful of apple. It sank low into his belly and lay like lead.  “Yes, father.”

“You’re feeling better?”

Would his father ask about all the food he’d taken so he could hide the cheese? “I am.”

Standing stiff and tall, with his hands behind his back, Gabriel nodded. “Very well. I’ll have Nathalie begin rescheduling your engagements.”

It was Friday, there would be no school tomorrow but he didn’t want to wait until Monday to see his friends. “May I go out tomorrow? I’d like to meet up with some friends.”

“You may not,” Gabriel said. “You still need rest. On Monday you may return to school and see those you believe are your friends.”

Adrien bit back a retort. “Thank you.”

“Since you are well, I shall reschedule my flight to tomorrow morning. The show in Berlin is in shambles.”

Inclining his head, he said, “I am sorry my illness cost you precious time with your designs.”

Raising his eyebrow, Gabriel stared at him.

“Goodnight,” Adrien said and made his escape. Leaning against his closed bedroom door, he shook his head at himself. “That was dumb.”

“Do you have my cheese?” Plagg asked, lolling on the bed.

Finally full of cheese, Plagg allowed a transformation and Chat Noir stalked the night. Cooped up for so long, he relished the chance to jump and soar through the darkness.

The lights were off in Marinette’s room. Nightvision revealed the room below empty, but he couldn’t see her bed. Perched on the building across, he felt disappointed. He’d hoped to see her tonight, instead of waiting until Monday. Bounding across to her terrace to peer into the small loft which held her bed, he discovered the trap door unlocked.

He couldn’t possibly leave now. Not with her so vulnerable. She needed to wake up and lock the door.

Marinette lay on her side, tucked into bed. He dropped from the roof, landing carefully on her bed so he wouldn’t disturb her. Because he had nightvision, he saw the flinch and a tiny smile caress her lips. Since her eyes stayed resolutely shut, he grinned to himself.

A game! Oh, he could play that game.

He knelt down, each knee on one side of her body. “Marinette,” he crooned and touched her shoulder. No response. Murmuring her name again, he headbutted her shoulder and rubbed his face against her. “Marinette. Wakey wakey.”

She remained still.

Allowing the purr to echo through the quiet room, he used his hands to knead her shoulder. “Pay attention to me.”

She moved her head, snuggling into the pillow. A hand tugged at the blanket, pulling it up around her neck.

He sat on her hip and kneaded with more force. When she didn’t react, he bent forward and nuzzled her ear, then licked her cheek. “I’m resisting the urge to sit on your head while you pretend to sleep.”

The corner of her eyes twitched.

“I have nightvision,” he sang and ran his nose along her cheek. “I can see you.”

Her eyes betrayed her as they shot open, then shut just as quick.

He laughed. “I saw that! Were you waiting up for me, Princess?”

“Shh, I’m sleeping.” She tried to be grumpy with him but he could hear the humour lacing her voice.

“I’m lonely. Love me.”

“Poor pathetic kitty.”

“If I’d known you slept with another cat,” he said, playfully batting at the huge cat pillow at the head of her bed. “I would have come to defend my territory a lot sooner.”

“As long as you don’t spray,” Marinette mumbled.

Shuffling down, he head-butted her elbow and tried to get beneath it. “I would never.”

“Good, cause I’d have to squirt you if you did.”

He wriggled and inched forward, nuzzling and purring as he dug beneath her elbow and Marinette finally lifted it to allow him beneath. Flopping so his head was on the pillow beside her, he rested his hand on her waist. “I missed you.”

Eyes flashing open as a sudden thought occurred, her hand gripped his shoulder and she blurted, “Are you alright? You’ve been hurt.”

“Overdose of catnip,” he soothed. “I’m fine, just housebound for a while. I broke out so I could see you. Ladybug told you I’d been hurt?”

Panic flittered across her features for a moment. “Um. Yeah.”

“Well, that was nice of her.”

“Catnip overdose?”

“An akuma was flower based and grew a lot of bushes very fast. It was… unpleasant…”

Her bottom lip stuck out a small way and he wondered if she’d had plans with catnip. “That’s a shame. I’ve heard it can do nice things to cats in small doses.”

“Well, the initial reaction was nice, but the hangover after? No thanks. Everything in moderation.”

“I’m glad you’re okay.”

She couldn’t see him in the darkness, her eyes glazed and staring at a point on his left cheek, while he could see every nuance of her expression. He moved his face closer until his nose touched hers.

“This is going to be a thing, isn’t it? Am I going to wake up in the middle of the night to you staring at me and demanding pets?”

“If you leave your trapdoor open, then absolutely.” She snuggled closer to him but he wasn’t done talking with her. Being alone in such a big house with only Plagg, he ached for conversation. “How was your day?”

Her brow furrowed as though she was confused why he asked. “Fine.” Her face lit up in the darkness. “No, it was good! A design competition for Gabriel Agreste was announced. Jackets. I’m supposed to do a matching set, both masculine and feminine. I have so many ideas, it’s hard to narrow it down.”

He grinned. “You won the last one didn’t you?”

She beamed, pleased he knew that. “I did!” She slipped her hand up between them to drum her lips. “I wonder if Adrien will wear the winning design again.”

If Marinette was entering, he was going to make sure he did.

“Although, no feathers. He’s allergic to them.” She blinked. “Same as you.”

Internally cringing, he said, “It’s a common allergy.”

“I suppose.” She snuggled in closer. “It would be awesome if I won. He’s already worn my hat and scarf, it’d be awesome if he could wear my jackets too.”

Scarf? What scarf? Still, this was a perfect opportunity to see what she thought about his alter-ego. “Adrien Agreste? He’s in your class, isn’t he?”

She hummed at him. “He sits in front of me.”

“Lucky you.”

She groaned and scrunched up her face.

That wasn’t a good expression. “Don’t like him?”

“I can’t seem to make my mouth form coherent words around him. It’s embarrassing. I’d give anything to be able to sit through one conversation without making a fool of myself. Will you help me with my jackets?”

Chat Noir blinked at the sudden subject change when he wanted to ask her why she thought she made a fool of herself. His mind was overridden with thoughts of helping her with something because it meant spending more time with her. It also meant she wanted him involved in her everyday life. “How?”

“You have a nice chest.” She spread her fingers across it to illustrate. “I could use you as a model to see how it fits.”

“Except I have my suit in the way and it doesn’t exactly come off. Pretty sure the armour and gloves would get in the way.”

Sliding her fingers up to his shoulders, she ran her hands across his armour. “Can I put a paper bag over your head?”

He smirked. “Are you trying to get me shirtless?”

Her eyes widened. “Um… the jacket is supposed to be worn above a shirt so—”

He nudged her with his nose. “It’s okay to say yes.”

“Then yes. Absolutely.”

The purr in his chest deepened and he kneaded her pyjamas at her waist, then slipped his hand beneath to test boundaries. “Then I’d be happy to help with your jacket.”

“Be careful,” she murmured. “Or I might have to stick you with a pin. Can you come on Sunday? I should have a basic design by then.”

“Of course.” He grinned and his eyes dropped to her lips.

“Do you ever think it’s weird that the majority of my class have become akuma?”

He hesitated. “I… hadn’t actually thought about it.” A sudden bolt of fear clutched his heart and his purr spluttered and died. “You’ve never become one.”

“No. There are a few of us which haven’t. But it’s made me wonder if somehow… I don’t know… Do you think you and Ladybug attract akuma?”

He stilled as he thought about it. It made sense. Hawkmoth wanted their Miraculous, maybe he could sense a general location, then waited for someone close to them to be susceptible. “Maybe. You think Ladybug goes to your school?”

“Well… Alya has a running theory she does. It would fit. Unless… well…”

She didn’t say it, but he knew what she meant. He didn’t know how to reassure her that without giving himself away. “It’s an interesting idea. I’ll discuss it with Ladybug. It’s very possible.” Gripped with a sudden burst of panic, he curled around her. “Please don’t become an akuma.”

Marinette blinked at him. “Chat—”

“I don’t think I could face you. Don’t let yourself be corrupted. Say no.”

“Okay.”

He pulled her closer until their bodies aligned. “Promise me.”

“I promise.” Her hand soothed him, stroking through his hair.

He hugged her, burying his face in her neck. Taking a deep breath of her heady scent, he sighed in delight.

Marinette froze. “Did you just smell me?”

He kissed her jaw. “Mmm.”

“Why?”

“I like the way you smell,” he murmured and kissed his way to her mouth. “It’s… invigorating.”

She went as solid as a board in his arms and her lips were stone against his. Chat Noir drew back. “What’s wrong?”

“No... not fair,” she moaned. She extracted herself and wriggled back.

Bewildered, he asked, “Marinette?”

“You need to go.”

His heart plummeted to his toes. “What?”

She rolled away and got out of bed to clutch at her head. “I was so stupid to think it could be me.”

“Marinette?”

“Please leave,” she said and her voice broke his heart.

“I don’t understand. What did I do?”

She hugged herself and faced the corner of her room, her head resting on her wall. “Don’t come back.”

Chapter Text

Adrien stared at the screen, unblinking. A movie played and he couldn’t even be sure which one he’d put on. He wasn’t even sure if it was the original movie or the next one in the list playing on its own.

He couldn’t get Marinette out of his head. His mind replayed what had occurred last night as he desperately searched for something to explain it. What had he done? What had gone wrong? Why had she asked him to leave? Was she really serious about him not returning?

“I told you, cheese is better for you than crushes.”

“What did I do?” Adrien asked and hit pause.

“How should I know?” the kwami said with a dismissive shrug. “I was otherwise occupied.”

“Don’t give me that. You’re aware.”

“Human intimacy confuses and upsets me,” Plagg said with a straight face.

Adrien gave Plagg a deadpan stare. “Thanks.”

“You could go and ask the girl,” Plagg said. “Do the other thing with your mouths.”

“She told me not to come back.”

“And you’re going to listen?”

“… for today at least.”

Plagg rolled his eyes. “You’re obsessed.”

He ignored that. “She invited me over tomorrow. I can’t let her down.”

Plagg snorted. “That was before she told you to get out and don’t come back.”

Adrien sighed and scrubbed his hands over his face. “I just don’t get it!”

The voice communication module in his room binged. “Adrien,” Nathalie said. “There are some people from your school here to see you.” Her tone lowered until it was conspiring. “Your father left explicit instructions for you not to leave. He didn’t say you couldn’t have visitors.”

With a heavy sigh, Adrien hoisted out of his chair and slouched his way to his computer. A few key strokes and he brought up the outdoor video feed.

Nino waved at the camera with his best ‘I’m innocent and absolutely not about to cause a ton of trouble’ look. Beside him, Alya held a crockery pot in her hands. As he watched, Alya shifted the pot to one hand, grabbed someone from off-screen and pulled them in.

Marinette.

Adrien fumbled for the comm button, knocking over an empty glass he’d left on the table. Scrambling for it before it broke on the floor, he then slammed his finger on the button. “Let them in!”

Filled with nervous energy, he cast his eyes around the room, looking for something to clean. He had to make sure there was no underwear or dirty clothes to embarrass him. Finding nothing out of place and a suddenly absent Plagg, he dashed for the door.

She wouldn’t have come if she’d hated him. Marinette was a kind soul. She’d have come for moral support, which meant she cared. She said last night she’d always felt tongue-tied around him, so maybe…

Maybe…

Maybe Adrien was her prince.

The thought knocked him off his feet and he sprawled on the floor. Why hadn’t he seen that before? How awkward she’d been. How eager to please. The spluttering and blushing and the way she fled from him.

Maybe… Maybe if she couldn’t be with Chat Noir, she could be with Adrien.

But he had to test it. He had to pay attention to her and watch her reactions. Most of all, he had to not screw this up.

He pushed himself off the floor and resumed his dash to the door. With his hand on the handle, he did a quick breath check, then bolted from the room.

He met them on the stairs on their way up. Although he greeted all of them, he only had eyes for Marinette. “You guys! What are you doing here?”

Alya gave him the once over, then mock glared at Nino. “You said he was sick.”

Nino held up his hands. “He said he was!”

“I am! I mean, I was. I got better.” He felt like a puppy falling over its own feet. It was a struggle not to keep glancing at Marinette.

“Chicken soup won’t cut it,” Alya said. “We should’ve brought pizza.”

“I brought bread to go with the soup,” Marinette said, holding up a paper bag. “We could make sandwiches.”

Adrien leant over the railing. “Nathalie!”

She appeared in short order. “Yes?”

“Can you order us a couple of pizzas in about half an hour? We’ll be in my room.” He beckoned the group without waiting for Nathalie to answer. “This way.”

Plagg was so going to tease him about the spring in his step when moments ago he was moping around. A chance to spend time with Marinette, even though she didn’t know, was too good to pass up.

“Dude,” Nino breathed as they entered Adrien’s room. “Like. Woah.”

Adrien hovered by the door as he held it open for them and rubbed a hand along the back of his neck. “Yeah… it’s…”

“Dude,” Nini said, gesturing frantically. He went further into the room to explore. “You have arcade games in here!”

“This place is bigger than my house!” Alya said and then cringed, turning to look at Adrien apologetically. “But it’s nice.”

“Yeah, well, my father likes to overcompensate,” Adrien said and turned to Marinette. “You can come in, you know.”

Her giggle sounded forced. “Oh! Um…” She flushed and took half a dozen quick-paced steps around him and into the room before she stopped to gape like her friends. “It would be very easy to feel lost in a room this size.”

He shut the door. “It’s better when it’s filled with friends,” he said and, feeling daring, brushed the small of her back with his hand as he walked past her to Nino. “I’m glad you came,” he told Nino and gave him a fist bump. Glancing at Marinette, he was pleased to see she’d gone crimson. “It’s so boring when you’re sick.”

“Dude, how could you be bored with all this?” Nino asked and spread his arms wide.

Adrien swept his eyes over the room. “You’re the first friends I’ve had over,” he said. “This stuff isn’t fun when you’re on your own.”

Nino let out a low whistle. “Man, I am coming over here every weekend. You have a skateboard ramp!”

“You’re all welcome,” he said, looking over at his shoulder at Alya and Marinette. “Anytime.”

Alya’s hand clutched Marinette’s forearm and shook it and she barely concealing a grin. Marinette looked dazzled.

Adrien bounced away from Nino. “Do you guys want a drink? I have a soda machine.”

Nino’s eyes couldn’t boggle larger. “Sure, if you’re offering.”

“Have a seat,” he said, remembering he had manners among the puppy feels.

“Dude, can I play?” Nino asked, pointing to one of the dancing station.

Adrien nodded. “Go for it.”

“Alya,” Nino said, walking backward as he headed over. “Dance-off?”

She scoffed, one hand on her hip as she walked over. “You know I’ll beat you. You don’t have the moves.”

“You can try.”

“I’ll duel the winner,” Adrien called.

“No way, dude. You would’ve had heaps of practice. Let us learn the moves first,” Nino told Adrien as he started up the station.

Marinette floated around the room like a lost waif, looking at the various trophies he had.  She looked drained, like she was trying to keep up the façade of being happy and losing it the moment Alya’s back turn. She was upset about what had occurred last night, that was evident, but it didn’t explain why she reacted the way she did.

Adrien placed two drinks on his coffee table behind the dancing station and went to fetch the other two so he could deliver one to Marinette. “Here,” he said, holding out a cup to her.

Startled, it took her a moment to smile. She cradled the drink in both hands. “Thank you.” Gesturing the trophies, she said, “You have so many.”

He laughed. “Yeah. I’ve been fencing a long time.”

She nodded. “So your profile says.” She blinked and blurted, “Ahh— I mean— there are several years written on the trophies.”

“Gurl, you got dem mooooves,” Nino crooned appreciatively and clapped his hands.

“You know it!” Alya said. “Check this out.”

Marinette turned toward the dance station to watch Alya dance. Her eyes flicked between Adrien and Alya several times. He appreciated the effort she made not to run away.  “Are you feeling better?” she asked.

“I am,” he said, happy. “I caught a cold because of all the rain we’ve been having. I was pretty bad for a day or two, but I feel great now. I’ll be back at school on Monday. Did I miss much?”

He was babbling, he knew it, but her lips  wrapped around the straw as she sipped and all he could think about were the times those lips pressed against his.  

She released the straw and wrinkled her nose at his question. “No. It was mostly revision and stuff. We got our physics assignments back, but…” she shrugged. “You should be able to make it up.”

“Can you email me your notes?” he asked, hoping that would allow them a more casual way of communicating.

She swallowed. “Sure,” she squeaked, then cleared her throat to repeat her answer.  

“I hear there’s another competition for my father,” he said. “Are you entering?”

Her whole demeanour lit up. “Yes. I’m going to try.”

“Your bowler hat was amazing, although I could’ve done without the feathers.”

She cringed. “These ones won’t have feathers.”

“Good. I’m glad. I’ve heard jackets can be tricky, especially when trying to fit them.”

She hummed and shifted her weight to her other foot. “It depends on the material you use. It bunches and moves differently when on a person than it does when it’s on a dummy.”

“Did you need a model for the male one?”

“No, I…” A flash of pain on her face and then she blinked rapidly to cover it. “Are you offering?”

The flash of pain derailed him a little. “Maybe.”

“That might be a conflict of interest,” she pointed out. “Aren’t you judging?”

He opened his mouth, then closed it again. “I have no idea.”

Marinette gave him a small smile.

“Can you give me a little hint?” he asked and laid on the charm. “Summer or winter?”

He remembered that face. It was the face she got when he flirted a little too hard as Chat Noir. A slightly dazzled expression. “Ahh… winter.”

“What colour?”

“Charcoal probably,” she said, then pulled a face. “If I can find what I need in faux-leather.”

“Oh. Nice. Dark colours are versatile.”

She nodded and shook her finger at him. “And that’s all you’re getting.” With a smile, she took the straw in her mouth again and made a tiny torso swivel.

Holding up his hands in submission, he grinned at her. “Okay.”

Adrien felt like cheering. They were talking. She wasn’t running away or stumbling over her words. If he wasn’t mistaken, that little rocking wriggle she made was an actual attempt to flirt.

The smile faded and there was a small flash of pain again, like she used to get when she talked to Chat Noir about her prince and Adrien watched the moment slip away.

“You have a lot of books,” she mentioned.

“Came with the house,” he said, looking up at his second level. “Well, no. Some of them are mine. I was home schooled so…” he shrugged.

“Yes. I know.”

Of course she did. She read his profile. She was interested. “Mostly they’re just there for appearances. Shall we watch them?” he suggested. “Cheer them on?”

“Alya’s not even trying yet,” Marinette said. “Nino probably needs a whole cheer team to even come close.”

“She’s that good?”

“She’s a champion.”

Walking back to the dancing pair, Marinette sat while Adrien took the opportunity to show off a little. It wasn’t at all interesting that Alya pounced on Marinette in a celebratory fashion the moment they thought he couldn’t see them.

Despite Adrien owning the machine, Alya soundly kicked their collective butts. They moved on to other games, having a tournament as they played through. He broke out Mario Kart and the four of them raced against each other on Adrien’s massive screen. He deliberately mucked up Marinette’s run by bombarding her with as many bananas and shells as he could. By the end of the first race she laughed along with the rest of them and tried to hunt him down for payback.

When Nathalie delivered the pizzas, she sternly reminded Adrien to keep it at a minimum. This was an unauthorised gathering after all. Adrien nodded dutifully and closed the door in her face.

With the pizzas spread across the coffee table between the sofas, the four teens ate and talked.  Adrien tried to keep his attention away from Marinette, but he kept being drawn back to her. The blush made a permanent home on her cheeks as she talked.  When they were nearly full, Adrien headed to his soda machine to get refills.

Nino followed him. “Don’t think for a second I don’t see your gooey-eyes at Marinette.”

Adrien pressed his lips together and handed Nino one of the cups.

Nino laughed. “Dude, you got it bad.”

“Maybe,” Adrien said, filling the next drink.

“Good,” he said with a decisive nod. “She’s been crazy about you for ages.”

That warmed him in so many ways. “Yeah?”

“You’re so oblivious sometimes,” he said and winked. “Alya and I can make ourselves scarce, if you know what I mean.”

Tempting. “Nah. She’s actually talking to me. Don’t want to scare her off.”

“Say the word and we’re gone,” Nino said and waggled his eyebrows. “Besides, I could use some alone time with Alya.”

Adrien laughed. “Of course you would.”

“Did you see those dance moves?” Nino asked, making an hourglass shape with his hands. “Hawt.”

“I’ll keep it in mind then!” Carrying the drinks over, Adrien suggested. “Shall we watch a movie?”

Alya licked her fingers clean before she accepted a drink. “Sure, whatcha got?” she asked then took a bite of her pizza.

“Access to everything,” Adrien said. He flopped on the sofa beside Marinette and grabbed a slice for himself. As he sat back, he rested his arm along the back of the sofa in what he hoped to be a nonchalant move.

Marinette gagged on her slice of pizza and covered it with a cough.

“Romantic comedy?” Nino asked with a suggestive eyebrow dance.

Alya smirked at Nino. “Sci-fi.”

“Action,” he countered.

“Horror,” Alya suggested.

Marinette rested her hand on the small pink purse she always wore. “Um… can I use your bathroom?”

“Sure,” Adrien said and pointed to the door with a shark sign. Plagg wouldn’t be hiding out in there, he’d spotted the kwami in the second level before. To be sure, he jumped up to escort her.

When he got back, Alya and Nino were whispering together. Nino pulled back as Adrien approached and grinned. “Dude, didn’t you mention something about an aquarium?”

Adrien raised his eyebrows. Not in his bedroom. Not with Plagg. “Yeah, it’s downstairs.”

“Can we check it out?” Nino asked.

Adrien glanced at the bathroom. “Um—”

“You tell us where it is, and you and Marinette can join us when she’s done.”

Sudden onset of panic. “We could go down together—”

“C’mon Nino, we can go find it ourselves,” Alya said, bounding to her feet.

Nino jumped up to follow her. “It’ll be an adventure!”

Blinking, Adrien had the presence of mind to call after them, “Downstairs, to the left, the hallway past the dining room!”

Nino had the impertinence to give him double thumbs up. “Seeya soon!”

Adrien stared at his bedroom door, then shifted his eyes to his bathroom door. Inside was the girl he wanted to kiss and he was standing awkwardly waiting for her to come out.

He sat. He changed seats so he could see the bathroom door. He tried lounging but thought it was too much. He put his arms up on the back of the sofa and decided that looked corny. He went back to his original seat. He moved to the one beside it. He picked up a piece of pizza then put it back down. Finally, he rested his head in his hands and sighed.

“You’re hopeless.”

“Thanks Plagg.”

“Really, really hopeless.”

“Thanks.”

“Really, really, really—”

“If you’re only here to pick on me, I’ll throw you out the window.”

“I’m hurt.”

“I mean… I probably shouldn’t be pushing, right? I should… try and be her friend. ‘Cause, she’s hurting about… and that’s a good sign, isn’t it?”

“Cheese is less complicated.”

“As of now, I’m rationing your cheese.”

A heavy sigh. “Be yourself.”

Adrien looked up at the small kwami floating ahead of him. “That’ll never work.”

“And playing musical chairs will?”

“I was… I dunno.”

Plagg floated down to Adrien’s shoulder. “Just keep doing what you’ve been doing and you’ll be fine.”

“Thanks.”

“Are you going to eat that?” Plagg asked, pointing to the slice of pizza Adrien had discarded. Without waiting for an answer, Plagg zipped down and took a bite.

“Help yourself,” Adrien said. He sat back on his chair and stared out the window.

She liked him. Nino confirmed it. Her actions confirmed it, as reserved she had been, now he paid attention it was clear. He was her blind prince. Her blind, stupid prince.

And he couldn’t do anything about it. He couldn’t put her in a position where he asked her to choose between both halves of himself. Not for a while. She was hurting from whatever had happened last night with Chat Noir. All he could do was be there for her. As a friend.

Besides, if she was serious about him never coming back, there was no reason why Chat Noir couldn’t gracefully step back and he could pursue her as Adrien. There wouldn’t have to be any secret relationship. They could date. Hold hands. Walk down the street together.

Right?

The bathroom door clicked open and Plagg dove into Adrien’s shirt. Adrien turned his head and Marinette froze in the doorway.

Adrien bounced up. “They went to see the aquarium. I didn’t want to abandon you, so we’ll go join them now.”

Marinette blinked. “You have an aquarium?”

“Yeah. Do you want to see?”

“Sure.”

Walking to the door, he held it open for her. “I’m pretty sure Nino was using it as an excuse to get some quality time with Alya,” he said, throwing his friend under the bus.

Marinette pursed her lips, cast him an unreadable look and didn’t reply.

He escorted her down the stairs and through the dining room, into the aquarium hallway. His mother had loved fish and she’d transformed the room between the kitchen to the dining room into an aquarium with a tube connecting the rooms.

“Holy shit man!” Nino blurted as they arrived. He waved his arms around as he danced in a circle. “This is amazing!”

Marinette stepped into the tube with her head craned back as she watched a stingray swoop across the tank above her head.

Alya pressed her face to the glass. “I could die happy right now.”

“Check out that one,” Nino said, pointing at a striped one, then waved his hand. “Dude! Dude! Shark!”

The aquariums domed roof allowed for the fish to flow from either side freely and rock outcroppings gave refuge to the smaller fish in the tank. Various corals and anemones lined the walls, while centre was a large, open space with splattering of seaweed. Adrien liked the coral best; he and his mother had spent hours looking at the various brightly coloured fish and talking about them.

Grinning at his friends, Adrien said, “It’s better if you lie down.”

Alya almost instantly dropped to the floor and rolled onto her back. “Oh. Wow.”

Nino grinned at him and winked, then moved to Alya’s side to lie beside her.

Feeling daring, Adrien took Marinette’s wrist and pulled her further into the tube. “Here,” he said and pulled her down to the floor. “This is my favourite spot. Lie down with your body parallel to the glass and have your head in the middle of the corridor.”

“I feel like I’m one with the fish,” Alya said, waving her arms in the air above her. “I can reach out and touch them!”

“Here, fishy fishy,” Nino said. “Alya, look at that one!”

“Oh! Here it comes!” Alya cooed as a large fish swam over the dome.

Marinette lay down as Adrien directed and wriggled until she was comfortable. Still feeling daring, Adrien lay so his body was in line with Marinette’s but offset and upside down, so his head was right beside hers. Intimate and close, but not crowding or touching her.

Although she went pink, her eyes were on the fish floating serenely in their tank. “It’s beautiful,” she murmured after a while.

He turned his eyes from the fish to her. “Yeah. It is.” He looked away again before she could tell where he was looking. “My mother loved fish,” he said, talking to fill the awkward silence. “She and I used to sit here for ages, just like this and watch the tank and talk.”

She sighed and clasped her hands on her stomach. “I can see why she loved it.”

A small distance away, Adrien could hear Nino and Alya whispering together. Adrien paid them no mind. “We used to line the whole corridor with cushions and lounge. She’d make up grand games about us living at the bottom of the sea. Pirate or mermaids with epic battles and pillows for weapons.”

She giggled. “Sounds like fun. My papa does the same, although we don’t have an amazing setup like this.”

“My father used to join in sometimes,” Adrien said. “The pillow fights would be epic with the three of us.” The smile died and his throat clogged as he realised, in his eager puppy mood, he’d given away more than he’d meant to. “Those were fun days.”

Marinette blinked and turned her face toward his. “Adrien?”

“Hmm?”

“I’m sorry about your mother.”

He swallowed and blinked. “I’m fine.”

“It’s okay not to be fine, you know.”

He snorted. “Not if you ask my father.”

Her voice was soft and gentle and latched onto his soul to bury deep. Her fingers brushed his hair, the only part of him she could touch as she reached out to him in compassion. “I’m a good listener. If you need it.”

He turned his face toward her. “Thanks.”

Gazing into her caring, blue eyes with her fingers tentatively stroked the ends of his hair, while lying in the special place he shared with his mother filled Adrien with a sense of peace and contentment he hadn’t felt in a long time.

Between them rolled the unmistakable sound of a cat’s purr.

Chapter Text

Marinette went ashen.

Moments ago, her eyes gazed on his with compassion, now they flooded with panic.

Adrien’s eyes widened as far as they could go, the purr of betrayal spluttered and died.

They clung to a moment of denial, poised on a precipice of reality above a chasm of complete despair. The knowledge danced across her face, the horrible, horrible truth of who he was. Her mouth hung open and his couldn’t form words to reassure her.

He couldn’t move. If he moved, the moment would break and she would flee. Couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. Could he play the purr off? Pretend it was his phone. Yeah. His cell had vibrate. Would that work?

Marinette’s head twitched, a tiny jerk from side to side and her eyes filled with tears.

All thoughts of denying what she heard evaporated. His hands clenched in effort to keep them still. “Hey, no, shh. It’s okay.”

Her lips trembled but no noise emerged.

He was very aware of Nino and Alya cooing over the fish a small distance away. “It’s okay,” he repeated.

She squeaked, but in the squeak was his name. His other name.

Maybe this could be a good thing. Maybe, now she knew, they could talk. No more secrets. But he had to calm her down first. “Come with me?”

A tiny shake of her head.

“Please? Just talk. Please.”

She didn’t answer, but she didn’t say no. As quietly as he could, he rolled onto his knees and offered her his hand. Looking at his hand, Marinette sniffled, then slid her hand into his. With a small gust of relief, Adrien lifted her to her feet.

Gently tugging her from the aquarium, he led her through the dining room and stepped onto the first stair where she dragged her hand away from his. “I can’t do this!”

He spun to face her. “Please. Five minutes. That’s all.”

The tears spilled over and she half turned to look at the door, then back at him in indecision. “Why you? It could’ve been anyone and it was you.”

With slumped shoulders, he ached for her. “I’m sorry.”

She flicked her eyes between his and the door again as she wiped at her eyes. “I need to go.”

“I need to explain—”

She trembled, looking like she was barely holding herself together. “Your secret’s safe. I won’t tell anyone.”

“I’m not worried about that,” he said quickly and crammed as much conversation he could in the space of a breath. “Please. You’re upset. Come up to my room. I won’t come near you. I won’t talk. I won’t touch. Just let me make sure he doesn’t come for you.”

Her brow furrowed through the tears. Then, fixing her eyes on the hollow at the base of his neck, she nodded.

He held out his hand again for her, hoping to offer some semblance of reassurance, but she didn’t take it. Instead she bolted up the stairs past him and ran for his room. Glancing at the dining room to check they weren’t being followed by their friends, he followed her.

He found her hunkered against the wall opposite from the door, as far away from him as she could. Her face was buried in her knees and her hands wrapped over her head as she cried.

Hands slack by his sides, the only thing he could do close the door behind him and stare. He felt helpless.

It was the quiet weeping which hurt the most. The stifled sobs and tiny sniffles. He wanted to hold her close and support her as she cried, but he held his promise and stayed on the other side of the room.

A tiny paw on his shoulder. “You did the right thing,” Plagg murmured. “I’ll watch her.”

“Thank you.”

Plagg zipped across the room and wriggled his way into the space between Marinette’s knees and chest. Adrien turned away and, one hand gripping a handful of hair at the back, began to pace.

He didn’t know what to do. How to act. How to talk to her. How to calm her down. He felt lost, so very lost and alone and upset. A burning ache in the middle of his chest pushed him to move. His gaze alternated between the floor, Marinette and the windows.

He wished his mother was here. She would know what to do.

He fidgeted and twitched, his pacing becoming erratic and he found himself pacing toward her only to retreat.

Nino and Alya didn’t come up as the minutes ticked on. Possibly, they had found their own distractions. Adrien didn’t know. He didn’t care.

Hawk Moth’s akuma didn’t appear and Adrien had been so certain it would. Marinette was deeply distressed, and people were akumatised for less. Plagg’s presence must have prevented that and Adrien was more than grateful for it. All the cheese in the world couldn’t repay his friend.

The weeping slowed. Soon the only sounds in the room was Marinette’s deep, controlled breaths and Adrien’s footsteps.

Finally she raised her head and stared at her knees. Adrien froze in place and waited. Plagg floated out and sat on her hand. 

When she spoke, her voice was thick and heavy. “Can I go now? Has it been long enough?”

Adrien’s legs lost their strength. The floor was cold and unforgiving. “But…”

“I can’t,” she croaked and wiped her cheek. “Not now.”

“Please…”

She flicked red rimmed eyes to him and then down. “I’m not ready. I need to… think…”

He pressed because he had to. Because he couldn’t let her leave without getting some form of confirmation. “I’m him, aren’t I? The blind prince. The idiot boy too dumb to see what was in front of him.”

She sighed and that was all the answer he needed.

“I never meant to hurt you—”

“I know.”

“I know I should’ve told you, but I thought you didn’t like me as myself. You always ran away or… were so shy… but… but this is a good thing, right?”

Marinette raised her head and looked at him.

“If I’m your prince, that means you don’t have to be confused about who you have feelings for.” He laughed because if he didn’t, despair would well up and he’d cry. “Ha. Imagine if you were Ladybug too, everything would be perfect!”

He’d meant it to be sarcastic. It didn’t come out that way and he regretted them the moment they poured from his lips and saturated the air between them.

Hurt splashed across her already broken expression and she flinched.

“That came out wrong.”

She blinked slowly and not at all the way she used to slow blink at him. This blink was heavy with emotional exhaustion.

A lump sat heavy in his throat and made it difficult to speak. “Am I going to see you again?”

“We go to school together,” Marinette told the floor. “It’s unavoidable.”

“No… I mean… What did I do, Marinette?”

She shook her head and Plagg reached out his little paw to touch her cheek.

“Everything was fine. We were great and I did something wrong and I don’t know how to take it back or make it better.”

The tears started again, falling from her eyes and onto her already damp shirt. “It’s not you.”

He stared at her. “It feels like me.”

“Adrien—”

“Do you not want… me?”

Her face twisted and tore his heart to shreds. “Please, I can’t do this. Not now. I will. I promise. But not now.”

He hung his head. Lifting up his knees, he wrapped his arms around them. He didn’t need to see her leave. Didn’t want to feel. Didn’t want the gaping hole in his chest. They were just getting started. He’d been excited. Happy.

He should have known he’d never be lucky enough to keep someone like her. He was Chat Noir, champion of bad luck. He’d learnt his lesson. Ladybug had the right idea. Keep them at arm’s length. Never get attached.

Staring at nothing, he began the careful and meticulous reconstruction of his emotional shields. He was good at masks, hiding away his true emotions to be the perfect poster boy and this time was no different.

Plastering a fake smile on his face, he returned downstairs and interrupted Alya and Nino, claiming Marinette had gone home and he was feeling sick, would they mind if he called short the visit?

Sleep didn’t come easy and when it did, he had crazy dreams. A little creature floated above his bed and spoke with Plagg in a strange, lilting language. There were tears and hugs and a comfort he couldn’t find in his sleep. An endless tunnel of locked doors and he couldn’t find the key. His father, standing tall in a strange purple suit, with a circular window ahead of him. So many white butterflies. A spiralling staircase which fell into black.

Sunday brought a spider akuma.

A worker disgruntled with all the pest control he had to deal with instead of his normal work and tied all his bosses and fellow employees into webs.

Chat Noir and Ladybug were completely out of sync with each other, Chat Noir constantly got in her way and mucked up every attack she made. She couldn’t even look at him and Chat Noir was too despondent to care. 

She was mad at him too. Everything was perfect. 

Finally, Ladybug snapped, defeating the akuma in a combination of brutal kicks and punches and, using his own webbing against him, she tore the name-tag straight off his shirt.

“I understand why now,” Chat Noir said, afterward. His ears dropped and his tail dusted the ground. “I should’ve—”

“Give her time.”

He snapped his head up. “You saw her? Is she okay? Did she say anything about—”

Without letting him finish, Ladybug tossed her yo-yo and zipped away.

Monday arrived without fanfare. He didn’t speak a word to any household staff and no one seemed to notice or care. Even with Plagg buried in his jacket pocket, Adrien felt terribly alone.

It was a struggle not to look for her as he exited his car. She lived so close to the school, but he didn’t turn his head to see her home.

“Adrien!” came the call and he had scant moments to brace for Chloé. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “You were so sick. I would have visited but I know you wouldn’t have wanted me to catch it.”

He disengaged her arms from his neck and stepped back. “Of course, Chloé.”

There had been a time where she was his only friend. A heavy sense of loyalty hung between them. Chloé’s friendship always came with a catch. Now he was aware of the different kinds of friendships, ones which shared instead of take, the bond between them had weakened.

A sad and lonely thought occurred to him, wreaking havoc on his psyche. Chloé’s version of friendship resulted in the least amount of emotional pain because her attachments were based on what the other person could bring to her, not what they both could give. With Chloé, he always knew where he stood. There was no real guile in her, she was completely open about what she wanted from someone. Her friendship was safe.

“I should have my father pass a law to outlaw rain,” she said, grinning at him and he saw her misunderstood sense of humour rise.

He smiled. “Thanks.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I know that look,” she said and he knew she would. She helped him build it.  He had his shields and she had hers. “What he do this time?”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s not important.”

She tossed her head and planted one hand on her hip. “I should have my father outlaw fathers.”

“Now that would be an achievement.”

“I insist we go and have some retail therapy. I’ll order the mall closed and Sabrina can carry—”

“I’m fine, Chloé,” he said and patted her shoulder as he moved by her. “Thanks.”

As he arrived in the classroom, Nino animatedly flirting with Alya as she sat at her desk behind him. Marinette’s spot was vacant.

“Adrien! Dude,” Nino said as Adrien slid into his seat. “Your place is seriously tripped out. We had a blast.”

Alya rested her elbows on the table and her chin between her palms. “That aquarium of yours is amazing. Are you feeling better?”

Adrien nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He followed along with small talk, adding nuances when Nino and Alya’s happy chatter dimmed, but mostly he remained silent and watched the door.

Marinette burst into the room five minutes after class started. She stopped at the doorway and planted her hands on her knees so she could catch her breath. “Sorry! Sorry Miss Bustier,” she blurted and her eyes snapped to Adrien’s. “Sorry.”

Adrien stared at her, then turned his gaze to his desk.

She flinched and flicked her eyes back on their teacher. “I had a delivery; it was Ms Lefebvre and she needed some help with her plants and I wanted to be here early but—”

“It’s alright, Marinette,” Miss Bustier said, holding up her hand. “Take your seat.”

She moved through the room and Adrien felt her eyes on him as she took her seat. Right behind him. His shoulder blades itched and it took all his concentration not to turn around.

“Mrs Lefebvre again?” Alya whispered.

“She needed her petunias moved,” Marinette whispered back as she removed her school gear from her bag. “She won’t leave them in the sun and they’re starved. Then she expects me to spend my morning moving pots. I really tried to be here early.”

“So, the bag absolutely doesn’t contain fabric from the shop near her that you happened to see while you were there.”

A rustling of a paper bag. “Here. Feel.”

“Oh, that’s gorgeous.”

“It’s perfect,” Marinette said. “Cuddleskin for the lining. It was so hard to find in black, but when I saw it, I knew this was it.”

“Must’ve cost you.”

Adrien resisted the urge to turn his head and look at what they were cooing over. A special kind of fabric and he guessed it was for the jackets she was designing.

“That’s why I do deliveries.” The bag rustled again as she put it away. “And odd jobs. We can’t afford it otherwise.”

“I thought you were going to work on your designs yesterday?” Alya whispered. “Weren’t you going to have it mostly done?”

“I was… distracted.”

Alya snorted. “I bet.”

Adrien leant forward and put one elbow on the desk so he could rest his chin on it.

Time moved slowly. The hands of the clock almost seemed to rewind on occasion. Adrien found his mind constantly wandering as he struggled not to pay attention to the girl behind him. Miss Bustier’s voice, while it had always been soothing and gentle, had a quality to it today which made it difficult for Adrien to concentrate.

French and Literature gave way to Ms Mendeleiev’s Math and Physics, normally his favourite subjects but again, he couldn’t concentrate on class, something that Ms Mendeleiev’s picked up on immediately. He was usually one of her best students and he hated himself for being so distracted.

He wondered if Marinette was fairing any better.

Lunchtime came and Adrien remained in his seat pretending to fiddle with his bag as the rest of the class filed out. Nino cast a conspiring glance between him and Marinette, then called for Alya to join him for lunch.  A wink and a grin at Marinette, Alya followed Nino with a spring in her step.

The classroom door closed and the room dipped into a stifling silence.

Adrien waited.

Marinette didn’t speak.

He knew she was there, as he stared straight ahead. He could hear her fidgeting. Pulling at her fingers. Clenching and unclenching her hands. Opening her mouth then closing it again. A swallow which was unnaturally loud in the room.

But she didn’t speak.

His phone beeped, signalling his driver had arrived and Adrien sighed as he reached for it. Checking the message, he took his time putting the phone away. “Well,” he told the empty room and pushed away from the desk. “Guess that answers that question.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

He stopped a pace before the door and kept his back to her. “Saying nothing isn’t the solution.”

If he looked at her, he’d break. If he looked at her, he’d probably forgive anything as long as she’d smile at him.

“I practiced,” she said, her voice no more than a whisper. “I practiced and I wrote it down and I can’t remember any of it.”

He wanted to look at her.

“There you are!” Chloé said, bursting through the door. “Come on, Adrien. I’m treating you to lunch. I’ve already cleared it with your driver.” Chloé’s eyes slid to Marinette and her smile went sinister. “We don’t need to waste time on her.”

He wanted out. He wanted away. He wanted a place which didn’t hurt. With Chloé here, Marinette wouldn’t speak again and, in his current state, he didn’t know how to make Chloé leave. So he said, “Yeah, okay,” and walked away.

Chloé looped her arm in his elbow, chattering as she pulled him toward the stairs. “We’ll go to the hotel. My father’s organising a table for us, it’ll be just like old times. Can you believe Rose actually believes dreams matter? They have hidden meanings or some other deluded crap.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“Like if you dream about a puppy, you’re going to be attacked by a dog. Or dream about bees secretly means you’re allergic to honey. I told her she was stupid to buy into that sort of propaganda. And Max! He’s all buying it and defending her and getting pissed off about the whole thing and Juleka’s like ‘dreams are rad’, seriously does that girl not have any other word in her vocabulary? I really wish Daddy would send me to a school with more sophisticated classmates, but then I wouldn’t have you or Sabrina and—”

Adrien’s eyes drifted, looking out of the school and down the steps at the front. Chloé kept a grip on his arm, continuing to degrade their classmates and Adrien couldn’t find the strength to resist.

A small, metallic ball plinked down the stairs behind them. Adrien took one look at it and bolted, pulling Chloé away with him. The ball popped and yellow gas bloomed from it. Around the school courtyard, several other balls popped open, delivering the same yellow gas. Adrien threw himself and Chloé to the ground to avoid the gas. They slid, hitting the far wall beside the door and Adrien cushioned Chloé as much as he could.

Around them, students and teachers caught in the gas dropped to the floor. Those not caught, screamed and ran, dragging those student they could reach with them.

Someone on the level above laughed and one single thought gripped him.

Marinette.

 

Chapter Text

Yanking Chloé to her feet, Adrien shoved her toward the exit of the school. “Go! Get out!”

One good thing about Chloé was she always looked out for herself first. She didn’t beg or plead with him to come with her. She didn’t even hesitate. She bolted.

He couldn’t see through the smoke. Thick and yellow, it clung to the air inside the courtyard. Lifting the hem of his jacket, Adrien pressed the cloth to his mouth to help prevent inhalation. Bodies on the ground. Coughing people collapsing as they were caught in the smoke.

Nino!

Holding his breath, Adrien dove into a plume of smoke. Keeping low, he felt his way through the yellow until his hand touched a body. Gripping cloth, Adrien dragged the body until he reached the edge of the smoke. Taking a gulping breath, he turned so he could use both hands to pull the person free.

It was Alya, not Nino, who he delivered from the smoke. Eyes closed and body relaxed, she looked nothing more than asleep. Adrien felt relieved when she breathed. He left her beside the wall, clear of the smoke.

Pressing the hem of his shirt back against his mouth, he braved the smoke again. Finding an ankle, he heaved and dragged the body free, grateful to find this time it was Nino. He, like Alya, appeared to be unhurt, but unable to wake. Thinking only to get his friends clear of the smoke, he dragged Nino to the entrance of the school.

His driver run up the stairs toward him and Adrien left Nino at the door. “Grab him!” he said and ran back for Alya.

Above, someone sang, a crooning song which sounded strangely similar to a lullaby.

Adrien didn’t want to look. Didn’t want to see if he could recognise her in akuma form. He couldn’t. He hadn’t been there to protect her. It was his fault this happened. He’d forced this on her. After yesterday when he’d be so careful not to let her be possessed, a moment of inattention had let an akuma slip through. If he hadn’t stepped away with Chloé on his arm, if he stayed, would it be any different? Could he have made the difference?

Chat Noir was needed, there were others who would pay otherwise. Ladybug needed him. He would do his duty.

This was going to hurt.

Dragging Alya out, he was met by his driver returning up the stairs. “I have to help the others!”

“Adrien! Stay here!”

Adrien didn’t listen, darting back inside the school. Casting a searching gaze around the courtyard, he ran for the nearest empty classroom. Ducking behind the door, he checked to make sure he was alone and held open his jacket. “Plagg.”

Plagg floated out from Adrien’s pocket, wringing his paws. “Adrien, Marinette—”

He didn’t want to hear it. “No time! Claws out!”

The power of the Miraculous made the smoke translucent and he was able to see students and teachers strewn around the floor. Several of them were up on the second level, lying precariously close to the edge. Since the smoke hadn’t seemed to have hurt Nino or Alya, and would certainly cause him to suffer the same effects if he braved it now, he wasn’t sure what he could do for them.

He couldn’t see her. The akuma. Marinette.

How long would it take Ladybug to arrive?

Leaping along the railing, he bounced up to the second level and perched on the banister to get a better view. Whatever power the akuma had, it included flight. He could see something pink flitting through the open roof above the courtyard, but it was too fast to see.

Pink. Marinette would be pink. She adored the colour.

He swallowed lump in his throat. Reaching behind him, he grabbed his baton and prepared to pole vault up to the roof. He had to face this. Had to face what he’d done, what he’d pushed her to.

“You can do this,” he told himself. “It’s not her. It’s another helpless victim. It’s not her. Don’t see her.”

What would be her item? Her handbag? She always wore that, even during class. Little and pink and cute, she never went without it. If she had it, if he could get close fast enough, a cataclysm could hold her until Ladybug arrived. If it wasn’t… her earrings? She always wore the same ones with the gem. They’d be harder to grab than a bag. He’d have to get very close.

He closed his eyes and breathed out slowly. “C’mon. Just get it done.”

More balls plinked down to the ground, cast from above. Several of them clattered to the ground behind him. Chat Noir tensed.

Someone grabbed his tail and heaved. Startled, he flew back off the banister and into one of the empty classrooms. The door slammed shut behind him and Chat Noir staggered as he regained his balance. His jaw dropped as he caught sight of the girl who crouched at the door and stuffed fabric into the gap at the bottom.

“Marinette?”

She glanced at him, then continued to fix the fabric so no smoke came through. As he watched, she got up and crossed to the teacher’s desk, where the black fabric she’d brought earlier spread across it. She picked up her scissors and continued cutting.

Marinette?”

“I’m nearly finished. One sec.”

“But… but… you’re not… I thought…”

She gathered up a long strip of fabric and folded it in half. Grabbing some white wadding, she stuffed it in the crevice at the middle. Next, she pulling a threaded needle from a small open container on the desk and her nimble fingers flew as she stitched it all together.

He couldn’t find the words to do more than splutter at her. “What…?”

“Cloth mask. To stop the smoke. It’s crude, but this is the best I could do with what I have. If you can make it to the bathroom and wet it, it’d be better but… You shouldn’t breathe that stuff in.”

It was her jacket liner. Her expensive, hard to find jacket liner. And she tore it to pieces. For him.

He couldn’t stand it. He pounced on her, wrapping his arms around her torso and lifted her off the ground. With a purr, he rubbed his face against the back of her head.

Squeaking at the sudden action, she dropped what she was working on. “Chat?”

“You’re not the akuma. I thought you were— I thought I’d made you—” Putting her back on the ground, he spun her so he could see her face. Touching her cheek with a gloved hand, he mumbled in awe, “You’re still you. You didn’t—”

“I promised,” she said as though it was the simplest thing in the world.

“Marinette,” he purred, the rumble making his voice husky.

She touched the wrist of the hand on her face as her eyes shined with unshed tears. “I promised and I couldn’t break that one.”

He wanted to kiss her. Out of relief, out of frustration, out of love, he didn’t know. He didn’t care. She was amazing. People were in danger below and instead of panicking like everyone else, she thought of solutions. For him.

One hand splayed on the small of her back and pulled her closer to him while the other cupped her cheek. Her free hand lifted until it brushed against his chest. His head inched down, his eyes roaming from her eyes to her lips and back again.

Her lips parted. “We can’t.”

Cold splashed over him.

Her hand curled on his chest. “There’s an akuma, people are in danger and they need you.”

He dropped his hands and released her. “Sorry. You’re right.”

Marinette turned and scooped the fabric from the floor. A few more stitches and she finished it. “Here,” she said, holding out one of the swathes of cloth to him. “It should work. I made one for Ladybug as well.”

He took it and looked at her. “Thank you.”

She swallowed and nodded. Holding up the cloth, she pressed the section with the most wadding to his face. Her cool fingers slid over his cheeks and nose as she made sure it was snug. Holding one hand behind his head to keep the ends together, she met his eyes. “Turn around.”

Keeping his eyes locked on her as long as he could, he turned his body, then swivelled his head to follow. She spent a lot more time tying the mask than he felt was necessary and he didn’t care in the slightest. Eventually, she dropped her hands and he felt her head pressed against his back. “I’m sorry.”

Bowing his head, he leant into her. “My Princess.” One of her hands brushed against his and he spread his claw in invitation.

Her fingers slid between his and curled and he could feel the dampness of her palm through the glove. “I can’t…”

Yearning sat heavy in the air. “But you want to.”

She swallowed and pulled away. “Danger. Akuma.”

He sighed and lifted his head to step away. A deep breath which he let out slowly helped to settle frayed nerves. Turning to face her, he asked, “How do I look?”

With a watery smile, she said, “Dashing. Go get them.”

In a quick action, Chat Noir pounced on Marinette. “Not without you,” he said and secured Ladybug’s mask across her face.

She reared her head back and struggled. “What—?”

It was tricky, he had to ward away her hands to the same time as tie but he was much faster than her.  “I’m not leaving you here,” he said, making sure the makeshift mask was knotted.

“Chat, I can hide—” she yelped in surprise as he scooped her up and threw her over his shoulder. “Chat!”

Carrying her to the door, he used his foot to scoop away the cloth covering the gap. “I need you safe,” he said, and peeked through the window to see if the coast was clear. “I don’t care if you don’t care about me the same way I care about you. I need to get you out before I can worry about the akuma.”

Her struggling stopped. “Chat—”

He turned the handle. “Shh. Let me do my thing,” he said and slipped through the door.

Yellow smoke filled the whole courtyard and billowed through the hole in the roof. Not a single part of it contained clean air anymore and he was grateful for Marinette’s foresight.  His enhanced eyesight could see people on the floor below, shuffling around without any sense of direction. His gut reaction said ‘zombies’, but upon closer inspection, every one of them had their eyes closed and a relaxed expression on their face.

“What can you see?” Marinette whispered as she hung over his shoulder.

“Lots of people. They’re…. sleepwalking. I guess.” He lifted his head to study the roof. “I can’t see Ladybug.”

“She wouldn’t be much good in here,” Marinette said. “Can… we do this another way? Your shoulder is bony.”

He placed her on the ground and wrapped his arm around her waist. “Not a complaint I’ve had before.”

She looped her arms around his neck and put her toes on his foot.

Chat Noir reached for his baton and clicked a button to extend it. “Okay, hold on.” Holding it over the banister, he let it extend until it reached the floor below, then tightened his grip and extended it upward, pulling them both into the air.

She was brave. She didn’t squeal or squeeze him tighter. She hung against him like she belonged there. The baton retracted to its small form the second his foot touched the stone of the roof of the school. Taking her hand, they ran together across the rooftop to the edge and stopped at the precipice.

More sleepwalkers. They spilled out onto the road from the school, clogging up the surrounding streets. Cars stopped and blocked traffic so they sleepwalkers didn’t wander into danger, but with the rate of growth of the smoke plume from the school, soon many more people would be engulfed.

“Alya,” Marinette breathed, spotting her best friend among the people trudging below.

“And Nino.”

“Mama,” Marinette moaned and Chat Noir frowned.

“Where?”

She pointed, her hand shaking to a small Chinese lady in a white dress as she wandered in circles. “She must’ve come to the school.”

Chat Noir blinked at the frantic man, moving objects and people out of the way of the woman, while simultaneously searching through the sea of sleepwalkers. “That’s your father, isn’t it?”

Marinette nodded. “He’s looking for me.”

“I’d forgotten how big he was.” He leant over the edge to check what was below, then held out his baton. “Let’s get you—”

Balls of metal popped in the air ahead of them, forcing Chat Noir and Marinette away from the edge of the building. Spinning the baton to use as a shield, he pulled Marinette with him as he ran. Metal balls were deflected away by the baton and, as they popped, smoke filled the area above the school. Reaching a larger, more open area of stone, he turned to face his opponent, twirling Marinette until she was behind him. “Stay down.”

She hunkered down. “I can—”

He braced himself in front of her. “Stay where I can see you!”

“Stubborn cat.”

He poked his tongue at her. “Snarly girl.”

A fluffy pink cloud descended from the sky. Atop it stood a small blonde girl, dressed in a skin-tight purple bodysuit. Golden swirls danced across the suit, the patterns shifting like sand in a desert. With her hands planted on her hips, she held a circular mirror in one and a bamboo tube in the other. “I am Dream Twister!” she announced. “And it’s time for you to take a cat nap!”

Chat Noir dropped his stance, frustrated. “She beat me to it. I was going to use that.”

“Rose!” Marinette blurted, her eyes wide.

Chat Noir frowned. “Rose… oh, this is Chloé’s doing!”

“Again? Someone needs to gag her.”

He snorted.

Dream Twister swung her mirror and the metallic balls erupted from the mirror’s shiny surface. She cast them down with a regal swipe of her hand.

Chat Noir was ready. Keeping his lower body as still as he could to shield Marinette, he spun his baton ahead of him, knocking the balls away. Unlike the Bubbler’s globes, he had to make sure these balls landed well away from them so when they exploded, he and Marinette weren’t covered in gas.

Dream Twister was relentless in conjuring the balls through her mirror. She widened her throw so Chat Noir had to reach for the balls to knock them away. He couldn’t make his baton grow anymore or it’d hit the stone roof as it spun.

Hissing in frustration, he rocked for side to side, ever wary of the blooms of smoke from the balls floated closer. They were running out of time.

Where was Ladybug?

Where was the well placed yo-yo throw against Dream Twister’s arm to slow her attack? Where was the distraction so he could get Marinette clear?  If he left Marinette unshielded, there was a chance one of the balls would get through his defence. While he was sure the mask worked, he didn’t want to test it against a direct hit.

Dream Twister began to circle them and increased the speed of her attacks, forcing Chat Noir to dance and flip around Marinette. “It’s so cute how you’re trying to protect her.”

“We need to get off the roof!”

“I’m working on it!” Chat Noir said. He expended more and more effort to keep them covered and approached his limit.

Beneath him, Chat Noir caught a glimpse of Marinette fiddling with her pink bag. He bounced to the left a pace to take out several of the metal balls and the moment he leapt back to cover her, she scrambled out. Standing up, she spun the bag by it straps and released it at Dream Twister.

Marinette didn’t even wait to see if it hit, grabbing Chat Noir’s arm and pulled him into a run. “C’mon!”

There was a short cry of pain as Marinette’s bag hit its mark. Around them, the metal balls he’d been deflecting popped, releasing their gas. Marinette was quicker than Chat Noir expected in dodging the growing plumes. They ducked and wove and burst through gas clouds. As they reached the edge of the building, Marinette didn’t even stop. She planted her foot on the edge and threw herself from the building.

Amazed at her daring and trust in him, Chat Noir leapt with her. Scooping her up mid-air, he extended his baton down to the ground below him. Marinette’s arms found his neck and she curled up against him. Using the baton, he spun them around it to slow their descent but they still hit the ground fast. Using all the cat-like agility Plagg had bestowed on them, he landed on his feet with Marinette in his arms.

By the shine in her eyes, she grinned broadly and he wished the mask wasn’t in the way so he could see it. Setting her on the ground, he said, “Go hide.”

She nodded and her hand lingered on his neck as she stepped away. Her eyes suddenly blew wide and she tackled him to the ground.  

Skidding on the ground on his shoulders, there wasn’t time to do anything other than grip her so that she didn’t get hurt. As they slid to a stop, Marinette collapsed on top of him.

Blinking, he lifted his head and his eyes fell on the small, feathered dart protruded from her back.

Chapter Text

Marinette was dead weight against him. Her arms dangled limp and her eyes stared at nothing. Holding her, Chat Noir frantically pulled out the dart and tossed it away. Patting her head, he jostled her to try and coax her eyes to focus. “Marinette? Princess? Please.”

She remained still.

She’d taken the hit for him. In all the times he’d taken a strike for Ladybug, he’d never wondered what it felt like to be in a position where someone took a hit meant for him. His job was to protect Ladybug. Marinette, dear, sweet, breakable Marinette, had been protecting him.

Heart bursting with panic, he slipped out from beneath her until he knelt beside her. He pressed his fingers to her neck, then dipped his ear toward her mouth to listen for breathing. She was alive. Out, but alive.

A shadow fell over him and Chat Noir lifted his head to Dream Twister, tail lashing and teeth bared. “What did you do to her?”

Dream Twister smiled. “There are two types of dreams,” she said, lifting her mirror. “The nice ones—” she lifted the small bamboo pipe. “—and nightmares.”

He hissed at her.

“You were being so troublesome, dodging and bouncing all over the place. It’s your own fault.”

Crouching low, he extended an arm over Marinette so she was shielded. “Bring her out of it!”

Dream Twister knelt on her cloud. “Give me your miraculous and I will.”

He was so angry, the snarl that came from within him was truly terrifying. He hadn’t even been aware he could do that. “In your dreams.”

“Or, perhaps, in hers?”

With a yowl, he launched himself at Dream Twister, swinging his baton like a baseball bat. She evaded, darting away on her puffy little cloud. The leap took him to the wall of the school and, leaving great claw gouges in the stone, he bounded up it to gain height. Pushing away, he soared into the air.  Leaping above her head, he twisted in mid-air and aimed to land on her cloud.

He went straight through it, but he swiped at Dream Twister as he went down and caught her ankle. She yelped and the cloud swayed and dipped as she tried to kick him off. The ground raced beneath him, but he spotted a lamp post come into leaping range.

Releasing Dream Twister’s ankle, he aimed for the lamp post with his feet, using the top of the post to spring-board his way back up to Dream Twister. He landed on her head. Going full cat, he scratched and yowled, climbing up and down her as he swiped his claws and aimed for the mirror. She staggered beneath him, batting at him with her hands and yelping in pain.

He tried to control himself. Rose lay trapped beneath the akuma and without Ladybug, he didn’t know how he could fix anything. Any damage he did may be permanent. But he was so angry. Angry at Dream Twister. Angry at Hawk Moth. Angry at Ladybug, where the hell was she? Why wasn’t she here? He needed her!

The cloud went crazy, dashing into fast, spinning circles, dropping feet through the air or raising up so quickly Chat Noir’s stomach rolled in protest. They collided with the wall of the school and both of them fell from the cloud. Chat Noir released Dream Twister and used his baton to catch himself before he hit the ground.

Dream Twister crashed in a heap between him and Marinette.

Chat Noir’s tail lashed, an inadequate display of the fury about to burst from him. Both hands curled into claws, he stalked toward the prone Dream Twister. A low growl rumbled in his chest and threatened to burst through.

“Calm yourself, Chat Noir,” a tiny voice behind his left shoulder whispered.

Chat Noir jerked and spun around with his claw extended to face this new attacker.

Before him floated a tiny red bug with a large black spot on her head. As she smiled, she reminded him of Plagg. “Hawk Moth has the ability to see through an akuma’s eyes. If he sees you emotional about Marinette, he will target her.”

He blinked at her and relaxed his stance. “You’re Tikki.”

“I am. Ladybug is…” she flicked her eyes behind him. “Indisposed.”

“Is she one of the sleepwalkers?”

Tikki didn’t answer. “I will aid you as best I can,” she said and indicated with her head that Chat Noir should turn.

Dream Twister heaved herself to her feet. She wiped at the four long scratches on her face and grimaced.

He couldn’t bring himself to apologise. Chat Noir raised his hand so she could see his clawed fingers. “Want some more?”

She flinched, as though someone spoke to her, then she smirked at him. Reaching for her mirror and her bamboo stick, Dream Twister fixed them together, making the stick the handle of the mirror. “Shall we see what lurks in her nightmares?” she asked and pointed the face of the mirror at Marinette.

Ladybug’s ghostly from rose from Marinette’s body. It wasn’t Ladybug in all her glory, this version was absent of colour. Instead of red, she was a translucent mixture of dark grey and black, even her skin and eyes were ghastly and grey.

Chat Noir took a step back.

Dream Twister laughed, clapped her hands and bounced up and down on the spot.  “This is amazing. I wasn’t expecting Marinette’s nightmare to be about Ladybug. I thought spiders or frogs.”

Ladybug removed her yo-yo from around her belt and let it swing like a pendulum. Her eyes fixed on Chat Noir. “While I exist, she will never know if love is true.”

Tikki made a mournful noise and covered her mouth with her tiny paws.

Chat Noir couldn’t believe what he saw. “Why is her nightmare about Ladybug?”

Dream Twister thrust out a hand and pointed at Chat Noir. “Stop him.”

“Why is her nightmare about Ladybug?!” Chat Noir repeated, his voice going shrill.

Ladybug raised her yo-yo and lifted her leg as a pitcher does before a throw.

Backing away, Chat Noir cast the kwami a glance. “What do I do?”

“Get the mirror!” Tikki yelled and clung to Chat Noir’s shoulder.

Chat Noir threw himself backwards, back flipping to avoid Ladybug’s seeking yo-yo. “It’s Marinette’s nightmare. Can’t I reach her through it?”

“The mirror would be faster!”

Ladybug ran for him. Chat Noir went into evasion mode, not knowing how he was going to deal with a dream version of his lady. He darted around her, intent on chasing the mirror, but the yo-yo caught his wrist and yanked him back, throwing him against a wall.

Picking himself up, he dusted off his suit and tried a different tack, using his extendable baton to swipe Ladybug’s feet out from beneath her. She flipped out of the way, throwing the yo-yo at him mid leap. It slammed into his chest and pushed him back further.

Darting in on all fours to take a swipe at her didn’t work. Using his baton to vault over her didn’t work. Yowling and hissing at her proved a pointless endeavour. He tried, again and again, using every variation of attack he could think of, every ploy and trick he had in his book but he couldn’t get past Ladybug.

Chat Noir didn’t like this version of Ladybug. She didn’t speak. Didn’t smile. Didn’t display any emotions. Her entire being focussed on preventing Chat Noir from reaching Dream Twister. Marinette’s dream was as good as the real thing.

And now they were in the same space, it was amazing how much Marinette looked like Ladybug. He’d always thought she’d worn her hair like she did to emulate her hero, but now, could it be more than that? Or, perhaps, this version of Ladybug was Marinette cosplaying her in her dreams. Did she feel threatened by Ladybug? Or jealous?

And why had Ladybug said Marinette never know real love while Ladybug was around?

A small distance away, Dream Twister had retrieved her pink cloud. She lay on it with her hands cushioning her chin and her knees bent so her feet waved in the air as she watched the battle below. “Hand over the Miraculous and I’ll let her go.”

Chat Noir didn’t even consider it. Lifting his ring hand, he clenched it into a fist. “Not a chance.”

Ladybug swung her yo-yo in a circle and waited for his next attack.

Pausing to rub one of the places Ladybug hit, he winced. “What if I use Cataclysm on the dream Ladybug?”

“It’s Marinette’s dream,” Tikki said. “You might hurt her.”

Dropping down to a crouch, he considered. He had to get past her. Somehow. He needed more speed. More agility. More than what he had.  There had to be something he could do which would reach Marinette long enough for him to get past Ladybug.

Dropping his eyes to the girl lying on the ground, he smiled.

It was Marinette’s dream. Her nightmare, but it was still hers. She pulled the strings. In essence, this Ladybug was a part of her. And that made her susceptible. Pulling the black mask Marinette had made down until it rested around his neck, Chat Noir threw all his cards into a wild gamble.

He meowed at her.

Ladybug blinked and the spinning yo-yo slowed a fraction.

Lifting a hand off the ground, he pretended to lick the back of it and then cleaned his fake ears.  He battered the air as he chased an imaginary butterfly. He bounced on a cricket then lost interest in it.

Watching her without being obvious he was, he gave his head a shake, then let the shake skitter through his body. He extended his hands out on the ground in front of him and lifted his tail high as he stretched, kneading the ground ahead of him.

He thought of all the times Marinette’s hands had run through his hair, up and down his back. All the times he’d buried his face in her shoulder and lounged on her. All the kisses they might still have. Everything he felt for Marinette, he let swell up inside him.

Looking at the dream Ladybug, Chat Noir let his eyes glaze and rumbled a purr.

The yo-yo stopped swinging to return to its pendulum state.

Rising to his feet, he began to stalk his prey. He let the cat ooze out of him. He laid it on as thick as he could. A slight smile fixed to his face and purring, he meandered toward her. Behind him, his tail flicked from side to side playfully. The closer he got, the further he dropped toward the ground until he crouched at her feet. Pausing the purr long enough to emit another cute meow, he rubbed his face against her knees.

Ladybug froze in place.

He butted his head against her hand, a clear invitation to pet, and shied away before she could. Rubbing the side of his torso against her shins, he wound around her until he was behind. With his back pressed against her, he stood again, wriggling his shoulders up her back as though he was trying to use her as a scratching post for his itches. As his head neared reached her shoulder, he let it flop back so his hair tickled her neck. Closing his eyes, he amplified his purr as much as she could and let it rumble through him and into her.

“Chat,” Ladybug whispered and her yo-yo clattered to the ground.

He grinned. Snapping open his eyes, he shot Dream Twister the most impudent look he could muster and elbowed Ladybug in the back of her head. As she fell forward, he jumped and used both feet to kick her in the back. Pushing off her, he planted his hands on the ground and flipped his legs over his head.

The moment both feet were on the ground, he pelted toward Dream Twister and pounced. Caught in the allure of the purr, Dream Twister was unprepared for his assault. The mirror was plucked from her hands and broken in half. The dark akuma fluttered free and into the sky as it tried to escape.

Tikki darted up, snatching the butterfly from the air and shoved it in her mouth.

Chat Noir recoiled. “What?”

Dream Twister gave a low moan and the pink cloud vanished. She fell several feet to the ground and slumped there.

Tikki licked her lips, still chewing. She held up a tiny hand, fingerless hand to him to ask him to wait. Clasping her tummy, she swallowed and giggled.

“Did you…. You just ate that! I thought we were supposed to cleanse it! Ugh!”

“I am,” she said.

His felt sick.

Giggling again, she said, “Wait,” and shoved her hand into her mouth. Opening her mouth wide, Chat Noir was stunned to see a white butterfly perched on her arm. The thing was nearly as big as Tikki’s head. Tossing the bug into the air, Tikki waved to it. “Bye bye, little butterfly.”

Chat Noir shook his head. “You kwami are the strangest creatures I have ever seen.”

Tikki covered her mouth as emitted several purple bubbles. “I am not as strong without Ma... my Miraculous,” she said as the dot on her forehead began to glow. “But this should return them to normal. There might be a few… tiny… side effects.” Spreading her arms wide, Tikki released a white stream of light into the sky, much like Ladybug’s Miraculous cure. It created a pointed star above her which spread out over the school and the sleepwalkers shuffling around.

Rose was engulfed in purple bubbles and turned back to normal. Mostly normal, the scratches along her face remained and Chat Noir cringed in response. He got down beside her and offered her his hand. “I’m so sorry,” he said.

Rose looked at him and accepted his hand. “Did I do something bad?”

“No,” he assured her and helped her to his feet. “But the magic didn’t work as well this time and I scratched you. I’m really sorry.”

Rose touched her cheek and winced. “Oh. Ow.”

Tender, Chat Noir touched her under her chin and turned her head so he could see her scratch. “It shouldn’t be too bad but please get it looked at.” Releasing her, he dropped into a cat-crouch. “I keep my claws clean, I promise.”

“Rose!” Juleka yelled and Chat Noir saw her staggering over from the school. Holding her head, she had the walk of someone who was in pain, but she was intent on getting to Rose. Behind her, most of the sleepwalkers were on the ground, either lying down or sitting with their heads in their hands.

Rose smiled at Chat Noir and bobbed a curtsy. “Thank you,” she said and turned and ran for Juleka and Chat Noir turned his gaze away as they embraced.

Marinette hadn’t moved and Chat Noir scrambled to her side. Aware that people were watching him, and the crowd beyond reach of the smoke had grown, he crouched at her side instead of drawing her into his lap. Lifting up her hand, he held onto it.

“Chat, you should go,” Tikki reminded him. “You can’t let Hawk Moth see you care.”

Ignoring the implications of that, he asked, “Why was her nightmare about Ladybug?”

“You’ll have to ask her.”

Chat Noir’s ring beeped and he sighed. Either Plagg neared the limit of his endurance, which he doubted since he hadn’t used Cataclysm, or he wanted agreed with Tikki, which was more likely. Placing Marinette’s hand on her chest, he stood. “Thank you,” he said and offered the kwami a small bow. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“I’m sure you could. You have a lot of Plagg in you.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “Is that a good thing?”

“It is a very good thing.”

As his eyes fixed on Marinette, he felt torn. He wanted to stay and wait until she woke. He wanted to hold her hand and hear her voice. Tikki was right, he couldn’t risk it. He couldn’t risk her. If Hawk Moth targeted her, he would never forgive himself. If he was quick, he could detransform and be out here before her father found her.

“She’ll be alright.”

He smiled and put his faith in the small kwami. “I know,” he said and vaulted away.  Landing on the roof of the school, Chat Noir retrieved Marinette’s pink bag. This way, he had an excuse to talk to her. Climbing unseen back into the school, he ducked inside the empty classroom with Marinette’s fabric cuttings and released his transformation.

“Well done,” Plagg said as he floated ahead of Adrien.

Adrien smirked at him. “So Tikki’s cute, if you like bug-eaters.”

Plagg narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you start. Don’t you want to get to Marinette?”

“Oh!” Adrien blurted. Grabbing the tattered remains of Marinette’s fabric and her school bag, he ran for the door. He bounced down the stairs, taking them two or three at a time and raced out of the school.

Alya and Nino sat together at the base of the stairs. Alya had her head on Nino’s shoulder and his arm was around her waist. It didn’t seem romantic, but more of a comfort seeking position. Adrien trotted up to them. “Are you alright?”

Nino squinted at him. “Yeah. Massive headache.”

“Oh, not good.”

Alya whimpered and buried her face in Nino’s arm. “Doesn’t Ladybug usually get rid of this?”

Adrien lowered his voice. “Maybe she couldn’t.”

“Where’s Marinette?” Alya asked, noticing the bag in Adrien’s hand.

He cast his eyes toward the area he left her. “I’m looking for her. Will you guys be okay?”

“We’re just gonna sit here, dude,” Nino said.

Nodding, Adrien bolted for where he’d left Marinette on the ground. She’d moved, rolling onto her side and curling up in a ball with her hands pressed against her face. Kneeling by her side, he placed a hand on her shoulder. “Hey.”

She didn’t move. “Chat?”

He chuckled. “Adrien.”

“Oh. Light hurts.”

“It’s okay.”

She peeked at him and whimpered, hiding her face again. “I didn’t mean to leave you alone.”

“It’s not your fault,” he soothed and rubbed her shoulder with his hand. “You were amazing.”

“Why does the light hurt?”

He glanced around to see if anyone listened. “Ladybug got caught by the gas. We had to improvise.”

She peeked again. “Huh? That’s not possible. I’m—”

“Tell you later,” he said and slipped his hands beneath her as he talked. “C’mon, your parents are probably worried. With everyone suffering aftereffects of this attack, I think school will be cancelled.”

“No, no,” she moaned as he scooped her into his arms. She whimpered and buried her face in his chest. “Ow.”

“Sorry,” he murmured and rested his cheek against the top of her head as he got to his feet. “I got you.”

One hand gripped his shirt. “Adrien, I need to tell you—”

“I’ll come see you tonight, okay?” he said, keeping his gait as smooth as he could. “We can talk all you want then.”

A long hesitation. “Okay.”

Seeing Marinette’s huge father, Tom, rush over the moment Tom spotted his daughter was the scariest thing Adrien had seen in a while. He transferred Marinette into her father’s arms and gave him her backpack. Marinette lifted her head long enough to give Adrien a smile before she was carried away.

Before Adrien could go back to Nino and Alya to check on them, a hand closed over Adrien’s shoulder. Adrien looked up into his driver’s concerned face. “Your father wants you home.”

His father. Still in Berlin. Still controlling his every move.

Wandering into his bedroom when he arrived at home, Adrien sighed. He didn’t want to wait until tonight to see her again. He had no engagements until five, which had been allocated to body toning and exercise, so he knew Nathalie wouldn’t check on him until then. 

“Don’t even think it,” Plagg said.

 Adrien blinked. “Why?”

Plagg floated over to Adrien’s bed and flopped. “Tikki told me not to let you transform for the rest of the day.”

Surprised, he turned to face Plagg. “She did? When?”

Plagg didn’t answer. Instead, he yawned.

“You were in the suit,” Adrien pressed. “How did you—”

“We don’t have to use our mouths to communicate,” Plagg said.

“Why can’t I—”

Plagg shrugged and curled up in a ball on Adrien’s pillow. “She has a reason.”

“So… Tikki’s Ladybug’s kwami? And your other half?”

Plagg opened his eyes. “It doesn’t leak through, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“All of your other stupid quirks do. It would explain—”

“Do you really want the answer to that?”

Adrien grumbled. “Because Tikki loves you and Ladybug can’t love.”

“Oh, she loves. She just doesn’t believe she’s worthy of it being returned.”

Adrien eyed Plagg. “What do you mean?”

Plagg closed his eyes and refused to say more.

Sighing, Adrien flopped onto his computer chair and switched it on. He could fit in a few hours homework before his next engagement. Or catch up on the Ladyblog. Or play some games. Games would mean he didn’t have to think.

He completely didn’t expect to be interrupted mid-game by Ladybug knocking on his window.

Chapter Text

Adrien stared at Ladybug as she hung outside his window, half wondering if he’d fallen asleep at the computer and this was a dream. She gave him a smile and a timid wave and he fell off his chair in his haste to get to the window. Smacking into the wall, he wrestled with the hatch, then shoved it open. “How…. What…?”

Ladybug stepped on to the window sill and crouched down. “Hello Chat.”

He stilled and his heart flip-flopped. “Marinette told you.”

Ladybug cringed. “Well… sort of.”

“I’m sorry about that,” he said, disappointed and hurt. “I know you didn’t want to know and it wasn’t right for her to tell you.”

“She sent cookies,” she said, holding out a bag.

Seeing Marinette’s family label on the bag, he asked, “Did you see Marinette just now? Is she okay?”

She nodded. “May I come in?”

He nodded and stepped aside. “Of course.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help you today,” she said, moving into the room. Leaning down, she placed the bag of cookies on the coffee table as she walked by it.

“Tikki explained,” Adrien said and ran his hand over the back of his neck. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Headache and light sensitivity.”

He nodded. “Marinette had that too. Oh!” He bounced for the controller on the coffee table. “Here, I’ll dim the lights.” He hit a few buttons on the controller and the windows darkened as their filters increased. Moving the controller, he pointed it at the door and dimmed the lights in the room.

“Thank you.”

Odd that she didn’t say anything else about his room. Given the reactions of his friends on the weekend, she should be amazed, but she only had eyes for the floor. “Do you want a drink? I have—”

“I’m fine.”

“So, you go to my school, don’t you?”

She whipped around to face him in a move too fast to be graceful. “Yes!” Controlling herself, she took a step back and touched her head. “I mean. Yes. That’s why I’m here.”

Adrien’s brow furrow. “So… do I know you? You’re not one of the teachers, are you? ‘Cause that would be completely embarrassing.”

With a nervous giggle, something he’d never heard from Ladybug before, she ran her fingers along the back of his sofa and moved further away from him. “No. No I’m not.”

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” she said, too quick in her reassurance for him to actually believe her.

Adrien raised his eyebrow at her.

“Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be here right now,” she admitted. “But I need to talk to you. This really can’t wait any longer.”

Wondering what it could be, he tried to be considerate. “Do you want to sit down?”

“No. Um. No.” She rocked back on her heels and took the plunge. “I had the biggest crush on you for the longest time.”

Adrien sucked in a gasp of breath. “What?”

“I’m in your class.”

“No, you’re not,” he said. “I would’ve known.”

“Yeah,” she said and shrugged. “I thought so too, but apparently we’re pretty blind when it comes to our alter egos.”

He stared at her, slack-jawed. “You’re kidding me. It’s a joke. Right?” In his class? Who was in his class who hadn’t become an akuma? Juleka? Sabrina? Chloé? What if she was one of the boys? After all, just because she was a ladybug, doesn’t mean she had to be a girl. What if her transformation changed everything?

“I wish. I think some of your bad luck rubbed off on me. I… um… are you alright? You’ve gone pale.”

He blinked. “Are you a boy?”

She stared at him for a moment, then burst into a near hysterical giggle. “No.”

“Oh.”

Losing the giggle, she adopted a serious expression. “Adrien, there’s something I need to tell you and it’ll be difficult to hear—”

Adrien frowned. “Wait, wait, wait,” he said waving his hands at her. “Let me guess, you didn’t want to be with me when I was Chat, because you had a crush on me as Adrien. But now that you know I’m the same person, you’re here to what— confess?”

Her body language completely changed as she wrapped her arms around herself, shifting from confident to shy.

She was. She was here to confess. How dare she? After everything, she was only here because he was Adrien.

“No.” He shook his head and stepped back. “No. That’s not fair. You said you were happy I found Marinette.”

She blinked rapidly and looked taken aback. “I am happy—”

“Then you shouldn’t be here to confess anything!”

She took a step toward him and insisted, “There are things you need to know!”

Her persistence made him angry. “Your timing is perfect! Marinette’s confused and hurt and you swoop in and think that just because I’m Adrien as well as Chat Noir, that it’s suddenly okay to have feelings for me? You don’t even know me! I’m not one or the other, I’m both and you can’t even stand thinking Chat Noir might love you. You pushed and you pushed and now you’re surprised that I went!” Turning sideways to the window, he pointed. “Get out!”

Please!” she begged and her voice cracked. “It’s not like that.”

He glared. “I don’t want to hear this!”

“I wrote it all down so I wouldn’t forget. I practiced and I couldn’t tell you before but I can now! I have to! I can’t do this anymore.”

Something about her wording rang alarm bells and he dropped his arm. “What?”

She pressed on, speaking so fast her words bled together. “The minute you walked into school I knew. It bubbled up inside me and I did nothing to stop it. I wanted to be infatuated because it was me, as myself, not Ladybug. And that was okay because teenage girls are supposed to get crushes. We’re supposed to be gawky and awkward and pine from afar. Gorgeous eyes and hair that can’t be tamed.”

Adrien’s mouth twisted. She’d described him the way everyone did. It sounded straight from a catalogue.

“And then I discovered how kind you were and I knew- but I couldn’t even talk without spluttering and being stupid. So I never really had a chance to know you as you.”

Just like Marinette. At least Marinette had tried, in her own endearing way.

“And then you came in, swinging and purring and smirking and flirting with me and I... didn’t know what to do with you. You are my partner. I’d waited so long for some help and I need you. I can’t lose you. I didn’t know how to turn you down without breaking your heart, so I ran. I never let you confess. I couldn’t.”

“Ladybug—”

She paced and waved her arms as she walked. “Then you fell out of the sky and landed on my terrace in such a state. You came to me, not Ladybug for help. And I helped you, because you are my partner and I care about you. When you hurt, I hurt, but I can’t tell you that because I don’t know if it’s me or the stupid pheromones and Tikki says it’s not.”

Adrien frowned. “Wait, I never came to you—”

She didn’t appear to hear him. “She swears it’s not but— I see! It’s everywhere. Men with their glazed eyes and women with their smiles. I draw them in, I make them feel comfortable and safe, just by being around them. It’s part of what it means to be Ladybug. But it never affected you as Adrien, because you were never near Ladybug but you were as Chat and—” she gulped in a breath “—you came and I could pat you and be friends with you because I thought; no it’s the cold I can’t deal with as myself, not the pheromones, so it’d be okay, right? To pat you and get to know you without that getting in the way.”

“What pheromones—”

“It was only supposed to be once but you kept coming back and it was like you were obsessed with pats but that’s okay because it meant you weren’t obsessed with me and I knew it couldn’t be them and then— then I got to know you. And it suddenly wasn’t about Adrien anymore because Chat was taking up my mind, but I couldn’t kiss you as Ladybug because that would’ve ruined everything—”

“Slow down—”

“So I kissed you as me and you wanted to be with me, not Ladybug and how could I tell you then? Someone finally picked me over her and it was you and then you— you breathed me in and I knew. I knew it was the pheromones. Not me. It would never be me. And then Adrien’s being nice and I don’t know what I’m doing because all I’m thinking about is Chat and then you purred and… everything fell apart.”

Adrien blinked. Then blinked again as he tried to make sense of what she was saying. She was so animated, waving her arms around and gesturing wildly as she spoke. There was something wrong too. Some about the way she muddled things which belonged to Marinette, talking about them as though it was her—

“I was happy watching Adrien and knowing he was so far out of my league it would never happen. I was happy dancing across the rooftops with Chat. I didn’t want the two lives to mix. But they did and I got so confused. They got tangled up or untangled or criss-crossed or... I don’t know. All I do know is I can’t possibly love you any more than I do right now and I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know if it’s me or Ladybug or…” She paused in her pacing to look at him. “Both?”

Something teased him. Taunted him. Hidden among the too-fast words and incessant pacing was a truth waiting for him to discover. If she’d just slow down and let him catch up he could figure it out.

She thrust out a hand and gestured him. “And look at you! Being a big dumb boy with your dumb boy face and yelling at me before I can explain because you’re waiting for me to explain and here I am telling you everything I practiced and I’m still getting it wrong because you’re just sitting there with your dumb boy mouth open and not kissing me and Tikki, Spots Off!”

Transformation released and her suit unravelled. Ladybug faded into Marinette. All sense of her frenzied speech disappeared with the transformation. The room dipped into silence as Tikki popped up beside her.

Everything she said hit him all at once. Smacked across the face like a wet fish and left him floundering. This was how she’d felt when he’d purred in the aquarium. Her whole world must have been off-kilter. Blindsided, Adrien flopped onto the sofa with a grunt and stared at her. 

Her shoulders hunched to make her smaller, she wrung her hands together and looked more vulnerable than he’d ever seen her. “You didn’t have any idea, did you?”

Words. He should really make some. “Wow. No. I… no…”

She hugged herself and shifted her weight from foot to foot. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know, I couldn’t—” She cut herself off with a strangled sound and clutched at her head. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Somewhere close, Plagg snickered, only to be shushed by Tikki.

He bent forward, resting his arms on his knees. Clasping his hands together, he looked up at her. “Big dumb boy with a dumb boy face?”

She froze, then offered up an overly large, embarrassed grin. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it like that, I’m just incredibly nervous and when I get nervous I ramble and—”

“Shh,” he said and patted the air in front of him with a hand. “Shh. I’m processing. That was a lot of information all at once.”

“Sorry!” she blurted and chewed on a thumbnail.

He muddled through what she’d said, putting everything into context now he knew Ladybug and Marinette were the same person. “Okay. So. One of your main…” He frowned and extended both his hands to her. “Come here and sit down.”

He never suspected he’d use the words ‘scared rabbit’ to describe his lady. “I… er…”

He patted the sofa beside him in invitation. “Sit down before you fall down.”

She fidgeted for a moment, then made up her mind and darted to the sofa. She sat as far away from him as she could and he raised his eyebrows at her.

She shook her head and wrung her hands together.

“Alright. So. Pheromones. Can you explain that? Slowly.”

She adjusted her seat with a bounce and the bounce brought her a little closer. “Ladybugs have this… smell… which tells other ladybugs where to find a place that is safe and warm. Tikki says that’s why everyone feels comfortable around me. Safe. It’s how I can defuse situations quickly or calm people upset by an akuma attack.”

That made sense. “Okay.”

“Ladybugs also use a strong, nasty smell to deter predators, which I am so glad I didn’t inherit.”

So was he. “Or eating akuma to purify them.”

Marinette’s mouth dropped open and she swivelled to look at Tikki. “You didn’t.”

Tikki shrugged.

“Eww, Tikki!” Marinette screwed up her face and shuddered. “That’s just gross.”

“There wasn’t any other way,” Tikki said and shooed her hands at Marinette. “Don’t get distracted.”

She bounced around to face Adrien again and dropped her gaze. “Um…”

Tikki rolled her eyes. “Ladybugs use scent to attract mates.”

Adrien sat back in his seat and extended an arm across the back in Marinette’s direction. “Ahh.”

Marinette gaze didn’t move from her knees. She sat so stiff, her hands in her lap and her knees together. It was clear she wasn’t comfortable or able to relax and Adrien didn’t know what he could do to help.

“Which,” Tikki said and her tone was slightly scolding, “As I have told her countless times, has not transferred to her.”

“We don’t know for sure!” Marinette protested, looking at Tikki. “You said other Ladybugs had the ability to attract and—”

Tikki huffed. “I also told you Chat Noir was immune for a reason!”

“I am?” Adrien asked, surprised.

“Of course,” Plagg said, lounging on his back beside Adrien. “Someone has to be able to argue with her and protect her when she gets altruistic. If pheromones affected you, you’d let her do whatever she wanted and that wouldn’t be good for anyone. Ladybug and Chat Noir are about give and take and like yin and yang, there’s a little bit of each other in you. You balance each other.”

Adrien looked at Marinette. “This is why you got so upset.”

Her eyes still fixed on her knees, she nodded woefully. “Alya, I’ve been friends with forever. I know. But… you, I met you after I became Ladybug.”

He ran his hand through his hair. “I can understand that.”

She blinked and raised her head. “You can?”

“Sure,” he said with a shrug. “If my scent had always made people around me more pliable, I’d be worried if someone liked me for me too.”

“Oh.” She furrowed her brow and she chewed her lip. “And… um…”

“You smell like cookies. I like cookies. Does that answer the question?”

She flushed.

“Why didn’t you just tell me?”

“I was scared,” she whispered. “What if it was true?”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “This is also why you flirted but never let anything serious happen with Chat Noir as Ladybug.”

She nodded.

“So, why did you as Marinette?”

She started slow, but gained momentum the more she spoke. “I love being Ladybug. I love the freedom and the parkour and the strength. I love how well we work together. But I hate feeling like everyone’s always watching me, even you. Ladybug can do no wrong. I’m supposed to be this grand saviour and I’m just me.”

“I don’t see you—”

“You do,” she said. “I see the looks and the smiles when you think I’m not watching. At times it seems like you… worshipped me.”

He cringed. “Um…”

“That’s a hard thing to deal with when Marinette won’t live up to expectations.”

He didn’t like the way she said that. “That’s not true.”

She smiled like she didn’t believe him. “You don’t mind that they chant my name over yours and we’re partners. Just because I’m the one who can magically put everything back into place doesn’t mean they have the right to dismiss you.” She glanced around. “Although, I imagine you probably like being out of the limelight a bit.”

He shrugged. “I don’t mind letting someone else take the glory. You deserve it.”

“Today, I bet you were really angry when I wasn’t there to back you up. I bet, for the first time, I let you down.”

He wasn’t going to admit that at all.

She seemed to know the answer to that anyway. “As Marinette, all my faults are right there and you didn’t care. You kept coming back and making me laugh and blush and showering me with attention and… I mean, I knew you were getting something out of it too and it’s not like I would have let anyone do that and you were always so careful not to… um…” Her pretty pink blush blossomed. “Even though you’ve always been a complete gentleman, there’s only so many cat-smooches and kitty-kisses from a hot cat-boy a girl can take before she wants to explode.”

He couldn’t help the grin which spread across his face.

“I always liked you, Chat,” she continued, glancing at him through her eyelashes. “It wasn’t like like, in the beginning, but I’ve always cared. I thought, as Ladybug, it would be just encouraging you if I patted you and I didn’t want to hurt you. But as Marinette… I could give you comfort because I knew you wanted to be with Ladybug, so you’d never look for anything more. The more you came back, the more I looked forward to it. Anticipated it.” She tilted her head at him. “Why did you keep coming back?”

Adrien let himself laugh nervously. “Pretty girl, willing to pet me and satisfy the cat. It was kind’ve weird at first, since it was you and we’re classmates, but you never seemed to want to talk to me as myself. Here I was, as Chat, seeing a whole new side of you that I hadn’t seen before. Playful banter and a sadness deep inside you that you never showed to anyone else. Also, your hands are sinful.”

Marinette’s eyes widened and she looked at them like she’d never seen them before. “They are?”

“Paws-sitivley claw-some. I am paw-ty beneath them.”

She laughed.

“There was so much about you which intrigued me and I wanted to learn. I’m a curious kitty and I liked what I saw.”

She smiled and her presence lit up in his room. “You did?”

“I do.” Lifting his hand from his knee, he beckoned her with a single finger.

Marinette went red, but she pressed her hands against the soft leather of the sofa and slid closer to him. Not close enough for what he wanted, but close enough he could stretch out and grab her so he could pull her to where he wanted her to be. Curling a hand beneath her knee, he slid her legs over his lap, then slipped that same hand up her leg to her hip.

He dipped his head toward her and he let her breath linger on his face as he brushed his nose against hers. “You were right about one thing.”

“I was?”

Resting his forehead against hers, he murmured, “I do worship you.” Lifting up her hand, he pressed her lips to her palm. “I worship this.” He pressed her hand to his chest and held it there while he lifted her other one to kiss. “And this.” He left that hand on his neck. Leaning close, he bypassed her lips to kiss her nose. “I adore this.” Lightly brushing the back of his fingers up her cheek made her turn her face and his lips found her temple. “And this.” Her ear was right there, so he gave that a nuzzle and a lick. “And this.” His hands found her hips to pull her a little closer. “I adore all of you and I look forward to learning everything about you.”

She giggled and her eyes glazed. “Chat.”

He purred. She thrummed.

“Are you still afraid?”

A soft, barely audible sigh. “No.”

Tilting his head to the side, his lips tasted hers. “Is this okay?”

Her hands gripped the collar of his shirt to pull him in and Adrien let himself be engulfed by her.

Chapter Text

“If you don’t stop moving, I will stick you with a pin.”

Adrien glanced down, then straight back up again to fix his eyes on a spot on the wall. “Having you right there is not being very helpful to my comfort level.”

“You’re a model, you should be used to this.”

“The designer isn’t usually my gorgeous girlfriend who’s on her knees before of me.”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “You’re such a skittish kitty. Would you rather do this as Chat?”

“Oh, yeah, that’d be swell,” he told her, under layers of sarcasm. “Skin tight suit and that close, bad things are going to happen.”

Marinette lifted her head and giggled. “Swell.”

Adrien’s eyes widened and he groaned. “Let me die right now.”

“I always knew one day your puns would get you.” Still giggling, Marinette lifted her hand. Taking it, he helped her to her feet and she dusted off her pants. “Okay, arms out.”

Raising his eyebrows at her, his arms soon followed. Tapping her fingers against her lips, she circled him. “And you call me the cat,” he said.

“Hmm?”

“The concentration on your face,” he teased. “It’s a lioness circling her prey.” Looking over his shoulder, he rumbled a growl at her.

Resting her hand on his shoulder, she ducked under his arm to fix the way the jacket sat. “I learned from the best.” Hopping back, she ran her hands across each shoulder. “Okay, touch your toes.”

Aware of the pins holding the jacket together, he carefully dropped his arms and swivelled to face her. “I’m onto you. You just want to check out my purr-ks.”

“It’s a serious design,” she said, blinking big, innocent eyes at him. “I need to make sure it’s functional as well as stylish.”

“Rather fur-ward of you.”

“Fiiine,” she complained and dropped her eyes from his to the jacket. She pulled the edges together and stroked her fingers down his chest. While he knew she concentrated on the fabric, it still did wonderful things to him. “How’s it feel?”

“Amazing,” he said and closed one hand over the top of hers. “You’re doing great job.”

Smiling, she said, “I should be able to finish this tonight.”

He pouted. “Does that mean I can’t come back for pats?”

She lifted her fingers and walked them up his neck to his chin. “Depends on how much of a good kitty you are today.” She pulled her hand away before he could really appreciate her pat. Holding out her hands, her eyes roamed around the jacket as she said, “Let’s get you out.”

He slipped his arms out as carefully as he could to avoid the pins. Brushing it and picking of small lint pieces, Marinette walked across the room to hang the jacket beside the almost finished feminine jacket. He couldn’t wait to see the final designs. “Are you sure you don’t mind helping me?”

Jumping down from the small stool, he shrugged. “I didn’t want to be a judge. It was worth refusing just for the look on his face.”

She smiled. “As long as it doesn’t cause trouble.”

“I can handle anything,” he said as he slipped his arms back into his day jacket. Reaching for his phone so he could signal his driver, he asked, “Are you ready to go, Princess?”

She nodded and scratched the back of her leg with a pink shoe. “Just let me stow this.”

He watched her pack away her pins into the various sewing baskets and containers she had on her desk. “You have a freckle on your neck, did you know?”

She paused. “Are you checking me out?”

“Absolutely. It’s cute.”

Lifting away from the desk, she placed her hand on her hip and looked over her shoulder flirtatiously at him. “You’re a dork.”

“And I a-dork you.” His gaze fell on the basket she’d just been packing. “Hey, is that yarn?!”

She scrambled for it and shoved it back inside a basket. “No.”

Bouncing across, he joined her at her desk. “You’ve been holding out on me.”

“It’s my good yarn!” she said, moving so she shielded his view with her whole body. “I’m not having kitty-drool all over it. If you want some, buy your own.”

“Me-ouch!” Feeling playful, he tried to get past her. “There’s perfectly good yarn right there! That blue one looked tasty and—” Adrien only felt Marinette’s sudden freeze because he was pressed up against her back. “What?”

“Nothing.”

Placing one hand on her stomach from behind, he stretched out his other and snagged the blue wool. This time, she let him have it. Resting his chin on her shoulder, he ran his thumb over the ball. “What’s special about this one?”

Biting her lip, she took it from him and put it back in the basket. “I made something from it for a friend.”

He nodded. “Something special. Like, say, a scarf?”

She tensed and then let out a puff of breath. “You know?”

“I know.” He’d pieced it together from things she’d said. “Which means that kitty yarn is mine and I reserve the right to drool all over it.”

“And you’re not… mad?”

“Not with you. It was a thoughtful and wonderful gift. I love it and I’m sorry it was stolen.” He pressed his forehead against the back of her head. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You seemed so happy that your father gave you something. I couldn’t.”

He’d guessed that. Changing the subject, he battered at her hand. “Can I have the yarn now?”

With a giggle, she closed the basket lid. “Later, you can drool all over it all you want, but don’t we need to go?”

“Oh right!” Stepping away, he looked up at Marinette’s bed. “Plagg, let’s go.”

Hooking her small pink bag across her shoulders, she opened it up. “Tikki, are you coming?”

The little red kwami zipped down from Marinette’s bed, while Plagg floated down at a more sedate pace. Adrien recognised the freshly patted, dopey look on Plagg’s face. “Enjoy yourself?” he said, holding open his jacket.

“She’s really good,” Plagg slurred and curled up in Adrien’s pocket.

Tikki giggled and dove into Marinette’s bag.

Marinette clicked closed and wove her arm through Adrien’s. “This is going to be a thing, isn’t it? Those two sneaking off together.”

“Means we can sneak off together,” Adrien said.

Her parents were not subtle about their proximity to Marinette’s attic door as they opened it. Tom sat on a stool at the kitchen bench and Sabine was in the kitchen itself. Since Marinette’s stairs emptied right beside the kitchen there was no avoiding them.

Marinette bounced down the stairs. “Hi!”

Sabine turned from cutting carrots. “How the jacket coming, dear?”

While Marinette launched into an in-depth description about what she had remaining and how excited she was her deign was shaping up and how Adrien had found her the perfect cuddleskin for her lining, Adrien made awkward eye contact with her father. Tom’s eyes narrowed. Adrien’s widened. Tom folded his arms on his chest and reminded Adrien of a great bear. Adrien squashed the want to turn kitten behind Marinette. He wanted to make a good impression on Marinette’s dad but it seemed like no matter what he did, Tom didn’t approve.

“At least we know they weren’t up to anything,” Sabine told Tom, while nodding along to Marinette’s gushing.

Marinette broke off mid-sentence to go bright red. “Moooom!”

“Bit soon for that,” Tom said, his eyes locked on Adrien.

Adrien smiled and hoped it didn’t come out cheesy. He focussed on not thinking about the months he’d been sneaking into her room for pats, or the fact that he’d most likely be back tonight.

“So, where are you taking my daughter?” Tom asked.

Adrien swallowed. “Ahh… well—”

“I told you,” Marinette interjected. “We’re going out with Alya and Nino too.”

“But you haven’t told me where.”

Marinette paused and glanced at Adrien. “It’s a surprise.”

Adrien cleared his throat. “Um… Agreste Gardens.”

Marinette sucked in a gasp. “Really?”

Adrien nodded. “It’s not being used at the moment and the flowers are all in bloom. I thought you might—”

Marinette squealed and tackled him and Adrien shot Tom a frantic look, only to find the man had lost his stern appearance and chuckled with his wife.

“Perfect way to a Cheng’s heart,” Tom said and winked at Adrien and Adrien felt the stern mood shift to warm affection which somehow included him. “Our first date was the Luxenbourg.”

“Oh, here he goes,” Sabine said with a wide smile and gathered up Marinette to shoo her to the door. “Off you go, once he starts, he’ll never stop. Have fun!”

“Bye Mama!” Marinette cried and pulled Adrien down the stairs and out the front door.

Adrien’s driver waited across the street. Taking Marinette’s hand, he led her across to the car while Marinette talked full steam, “We’re really going to Agreste gardens? Where Gabriel Agreste does all his special entertaining? And they held Agreste Fashion Week and—”

Adrien grinned and held the car door open for her. “You are aware that’s my last name.”

She flushed as she slid into the seat. “I’m sorry. I’m… excited. Gabriel Agreste is a fashion idol and to go to a place where he’s held his shows is amazing.” She bounced. “And the gardens! I’ve heard they’re magnificent! I’ve seen photos and—” The flush deepened. “But you know this already.”

“You’re adorable,” he said and closed the door, trotting around the other side of the car. Once inside, he signalled his driver to go. “We have a hedge maze and the roses are all in bloom. I had the fountain turned on too. We can wander the gardens as long as you want.”

She had stars in her eyes as she looked at him. “I feel like you’re spoiling me.”

Adrien blinked and his brow furrowed. That wasn’t his intent. He wanted to do something nice for her and he knew she would enjoy it. “Is that not okay? I thought you’d like it.”

She reached over to give him an affection scratch to the ear. “And I do, kitty, but I’m a simple girl. I’m happy having a pastry on top of the Eiffel Tower and watching the sunset.”

Adrien tilted his head at her and leant in so he could whisper. “That sounds like a meow-velous second date.”

“I’ll bring the pastry,” she said and booped him on the nose. “You’re a cranky kitty when you’re hungry.”

It didn’t take them long to reach Nino’s home to pick up Alya and Nino. Adrien had invited them along because he knew the four of them would do a lot of tandem activities  and the chance to share his gardens with Nino and Alya as well was something he didn’t want to pass up. Plus, Alya and her ever-ready camera might get some nice couple shots.

Alya beamed happily as she bounced into the car and sat opposite Marinette, while Nino fist bumped Adrien as he took his spot. “Hey dude.”

“Hey.”

“Nice ride, bro.”

“Did he tell you where we were going?” Alya asked Marinette. She clutched her hands to her chest and bounced up and down on her seat. “Did he?” Casting Adrien a sly glance she said, “Girl, you are gonna flip!”

“Agreste Gardens!” Marinette squealed and reached over to take Alya’s hands. “I’m so excited!” She paused. “Wait. You knew?”

“He wasn’t trying to impress me,” Alya said, then held up her phone. “Plus, I take pictures. Speaking of—” She gestured at Adrien and Marinette. “Squish up.”

Planting both elbows on the armrest, Adrien leaned so he could be right beside Marinette’s face and grinned at Alya.

Snapping a picture, Alya looked at it and spoke as she typed, “Double date with my girl and her new beau.”

Marinette blinked. “Are you snapchatting?”

Alya raised her eyebrow. “Is that a problem? I already sent one out of Nino and me.”

“We haven’t exactly told anyone yet,” Marinette said, casting a glance at Adrien. “Besides you guys.”

“Dude, it’s not a secret,” Nino said, waving his hand. “All the flirting between you two did at school this week, everyone probably already knows. Or is in denial.”

Marinette flushed. “We weren’t flirting.”

“No,” Alya giggled. “You two were just making doe eyes and giggling.”

“We were not!” She paused. “Well, maybe we were, but we weren’t the only ones! You two were just as bad.”

Adrien shrugged and enjoyed Marinette’s pink cheeked protest. “I can’t think of a better way to confirm it.”

“You know there’s a certain someone who still won’t believe it even if you shoved it in her face,” Nino added.

Adrien raised his eyebrows. “Who, Chloé? Why wouldn’t she believe it?”

Nino shook his head at him. “Dude, you are so oblivious sometimes.”

Sure enough, a few minutes after Alya had posted her photo, Adrien’s phone beeped with a message from Chloé. “Slumming it, are we? Vying for dear daddy’s attention by having a bit of fun with your lessors. That’s all well and good, but don’t let her forget her place.”

Adrien raised his eyebrows and decided not to show that to Marinette. Instead he texted, “Her place is right beside me.”

I hope you don’t expect me to be nice to her.”

I have always expected you to be yourself,” he returned and put the phone away so he could continue conversing with his friends.

Marinette plastered her face against the window as they drove into Agreste Gardens. Reaching across the gap between her and Alya, Marinette gripped her friends hand and used her other to point. “Look at the fountain!”

The Gardens was a private parcel of land set behind the Manor, with a separate entrance. The fountain was the centrepiece of the driveway. Large, circular stonework with a tiered fountain, it emptied into a koi pond. Gabriel leased the garden and fountains for photoshoots as well as holding his annual Fashion Week on its grounds. He used to walk among it for inspiration but Adrien couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his father here. He and Adrien’s mother had married in the garden, and Adrien had grown up using it as a playground. It, like the aquarium, held a lot of good and special memories for Adrien and that was why he wanted to share it with Marinette.

Past the driveway was a fifty foot wide grove of birches with a path winding through the middle. Beyond that, the gardens opened up into manicured lawns and beds of strategically placed flowers. Toward one end of the lawn was a small, open amphitheatre which doubled as an outdoor catwalk. The opposite end was a small hedged maze.

Parking at the beginning of the stone path to the driveway, Adrien’s driver produced a book and went to sit beneath a tree.  He’d stay there until Adrien messaged him to bring the picnic basket in the trunk.

Alya and Marinette bent over to peer into the base of the fountain, watching the koi swim and cooing together. Seeing Alya with her elbows on the stone and her head in her hands, Nino elbowed Adrien. “Good idea, dude.”

Adrien shook his head. “You’re terrible.”

“Tell me you aren’t doing the same. Dude, we have girlfriends. We’re allowed to check them out.”

“You’re still terrible.” Holding out his hand for Marinette, Adrien beckoned her with his head and walked toward the path. “Flowers are this way.”

She practically skipped over to take his hand and fall into step beside him. “It’s so pretty,” she said, trying to look at everything at once. “All those birch trees. The colours must be amazing in autumn.”

“You’ll have to come back and see. Unless you turn into a grumpy bug in autumn too.”

She flashed him a grin. “I’m drawn to hot things.”

“Oh, I’m not leaving your side in winter.”

She pressed her hand to her forehead. “Too hot, I’ll be roasted bug.”

He grinned at her and went to reply, only to hear the click of Alya’s camera as she took a photo of them walking down the path together.

“That’s a nice shot,” Nino said.

“I have an eye for cute,” Alya said.

“I want copies,” Marinette called, smiling over her shoulder.

“Girl, I got you.”

A man sauntered up the stone path toward them. At first glance, Adrien thought it was one of the four gardeners but a second glance had him freezing in shock. He pulled Marinette off balance with his sudden halt and Nino almost ran into the back of him.

“Dude what— oh shit.”

Adrien swallowed. The hand he held Marinette’s with went damp and he couldn’t tell if it was him or her reacting. Marinette’s fingers flexed but Adrien didn’t let her release. Instead, he stepped closer to her.

Coming down the path the opposite way was his father. Gabriel’s hands were behind his back, his pace slow and steady, like he’d completed an afternoon stroll. “Adrien,” he greeted, stopping ahead of them.

He fought to keep his tone mild. “Hello, Father. I didn’t expect you.”

“That is obvious.”

“Hello dude, I mean sir,” Nino said with a wide, put-on grin and a friendly wave. “Nice to see you again.”

Gabriel’s eyes drifted to Nino’s and his mouth tightened. “Nino.” Looking toward Marinette, Gabriel’s gaze dropped to the joined hands then back up with more interest. “I recognise you.”

“This is Marinette,” Adrien said and then nodded to Alya. “And this is Alya. They’re in my class at school. I was showing them the garden.”

“Hello, Mr Agreste,” Marinette said, bobbing a curtsy.

Gabriel nodded. “Ahh, yes. Labouring hands of a hat maker. I trust your entry into the new competition is the reason Adrien declined being judge?”

“I didn’t want to be biased,” Adrien said.

With a considering hum, Gabriel turned his eyes to Alya, “And you run that website, the Ladyblog.”

Marinette’s hand clenched Adrien’s as Alya brightened at being recognised. “Yes, sir.”

“Interesting blog, your theories are most enlightening.” Turning his gaze back to Marinette, he said, “I look forward to your entry, Marinette. Enjoy the gardens.”

“Oh, he likes you,” Nino complained to Alya when Gabriel was out of earshot.

“I’m very likeable,” Alya said and stepped forward to shake Marinette’s arm. “He remembered you!”

Marinette gusted out a breath. “He did.”

“I get the feeling he was out here so he could meet you,” Adrien murmured, watching his father’s back as he walked. Was it simple curiosity which had drawn Gabriel out of his study and into the light? Or would there be repercussions? Deciding he wouldn’t sully his time with Marinette by worry about it, he smiled at Marinette and tugged her into a walk. “C’mon. The gardens await.”

“Look at this place!” Marinette said as they emerged from the birch grove. “I love it! Oh, can you smell that?” She bolted for the nearest flower bed, forgetting she had Adrien’s hand. Instead of pulling her up short, he ran with her, flashing a smile over his shoulder at the giggling Alya.

“Peonies,” Marinette whispered and cupped one of the brilliant pink flowers in the palm of her hand. Dropping her nose to the flower, she breathed in. “Hmm, beautiful.”

Releasing her hand, Adrien chose one in full bloom and clipped the stem with his thumbnail. “Not as beautiful as you,” he said and poked the stem through one of her pigtails. “Do you have a favourite flower?”

“Pincushion,” she said. “If you have any of those, I will most likely roll around in them.”

He glanced over his shoulder to see Alya and Nino strolling the other direction hand in hand. “Catnip to ladybugs, huh? Good to know.”

She giggled. Flittering from flower to flower much like a ladybug would, each flower received a gentle caress and a scent sample and a delighted sigh. 

“I’m getting jealous of the flowers,” Adrien commented after the fifth garden bed. “They’re getting all the attention.”

“When I first became Ladybug,” Marinette said, gently stroking her fingers along the petals of an azalea. “I visited all the flower gardens around Paris, like Bois de Vincennes and Palais Royale. I was drawn to the smell, the colours. Did you know there are hundreds of tiny gardens tucked away all over Paris?”

He nodded. “I’ve seen a lot in my roaming.”

Releasing the flower, she moved to the next garden bed. “Sometimes, I go running at night to find the moonflowers of Paris. They are really hard to find, but the smell is divine. ” Casting him a look, she smiled. “You could come with me next time.”

He was so there. “I’d like that.”

“Flowers make me feel happy.” She giggled. “And hungry, all the crawly bugs that live within them.”

 Adrien raised his eyebrows as they walked to an archway covered in wisteria. “Have you ever—”

“Have you ever eaten a mouse?” she countered. Cupping a sprig of wisteria to smell she made a delighted sound.

“Does sashimi count? I mean, it’s not a mouse, but it is raw.”

She blinked at him. “Well…”

“I’ve never caught a mouse with the intent to eat it,” Adrien said, then shrugged. “Plagg has.”

“So has Tikki. Aphids, I mean.” She hesitated and checked were Alya and Nino were. “Do you think it’s safe for them to come out?”

“There’re gardeners here somewhere,” Adrien said and glanced around. “So they’d better be careful.”

“Tikki and I are quite capable of watching out for ourselves,” Plagg said, floating from Adrien’s jacket. Zipping down to Marinette’s bag, he pressed both paws against it and meowed.

With a merry giggle, Tikki shot from Marinette’s handbag and twirled around the pair as she gained height. A happy-cat noise puffed from Plagg he chased after her. They dipped and twisted as they teased each other and Tikki dove into the vines above their heads. Plagg blasted after her and several flower sprigs had their flowers torn from the stems, showering the couple below with falling wisteria petals.

Adrien ducked his head as a clump of flowers landed in his hair. “Hey!”

Holding her hand above her head to ward off any petals floating her way, Marinette giggled. “Very fetching.”

Having been watching the playing kwami, Adrien glanced at her and then froze, entranced. Wisps of petals floated around her, eyes shining with happiness and a light blush colouring her cheeks, Marinette looked stunning.

A week’s worth of smouldering glances, stolen rooftop moments and sneaky snatchings of kisses made him ache for more but now he wanted to worship her with his lips. Taking her hips, he pulled her toward him. She made an adorable squeak in surprise when he pressed his lips to hers.

Slipping his hands to her back, he held her snug. She arched up on her toes to meet him, leaning against him. No space between their chests, they were upon each other tight and he braced his knees to keep from toppling. With almost reckless abandon, her hands wove into his hair and pressed against his skull to fuse their mouths.

It was meant to be romantic. The flowers, the gardens, being together, holding hands and happy smiles. The moment their lips had met, something ignited in her. She buzzed, a low vibration thrumming through her into him. Different than his purr and yet so similar in its intent and it seemed a waste to leave such a wonderful song unanswered with a chorus of his own.

A dash of desperation, a splattering of sexy and Marinette’s tongue tasted his lips. The heat, the liquid fire and the assurance of their first kiss was back tenfold. His senses flooded and left him weak-kneed.

The flowers, it had to be the flowers which prompted this frenzy from her. He made a silent promise to take her to every garden in Paris if only she’d kiss him like this again. Open mouths and open hearts, a torrent passion which swept them away. She pushed against him and Adrien took a half-step back to brace. Another step as she followed him, then he was pinned against the wooden vines and surrounded by flowers.

The gasp she allowed him as his back hit the archway was too brief. Her fingers blazed lightning trails along his skull and down his spine. Lightheaded, the intakes of breath he could take wasn’t enough and he didn’t care. He didn't want to calm the frenzy. He was happy to be swept away.

If he picked her up, would she wrap her legs around his hips? Would she let him lay her upon the grass? His hands began to roam, seeking out the warm places of her skin. The nape of her neck, the small of her back, the dip of her waist and curve of her hips. Feeling daring, cupped her rear.

The noise she made was a combination of a gasp and a moan and did delightful things to him. 

It had never been like this before. Not like this. It was all about touch, taste and smell. Taste her lips, smell the flowers, touch her skin, mould her against him and still have it be too far apart. Feel her moan and writhe and devour.

Words ceased to have meaning. Some still rattled around inside his head, but they were scattered. Dark shades of words which used to have elaborate meanings but now were solely focussed on her. Heat. Hot. Lips. Wet. Fire. Engulf. Want. More.

Marinette.

“Woo, go Adrien!”

“Nino!” Alya scolded.

Marinette fell away from him with a gasp and he mourned the loss of heat between them. Hands gripped the vines to hold him upright and he started at her as she backed away. Swollen lips and red from arousal and embarrassment, her eyes locked on his.

He cleared his throat and still managed to crack when he spoke. “I… Wow.” Not being able to articulate, he instead slow blinked at her.

Marinette’s smile blossomed.

Epilogue

Most of Paris slept, but anyone watching the rooftops may have caught sight of a black figure slinking through the moonlight and disappearing through a hatch in a rooftop in search of his ladylove.

She dozed on the chaise, wrapped up in a blanket to protect her from the cool of the night. One hand and one foot were all that escaped the blanket, her hand resting on what he thought was her stomach.  On stands in the middle of the room were two completed and complementary jackets. She must have worked hard to get them both finished, which explained her current state.

Chat Noir began purring as he descended the stairs into her room. Bathed in moonlight, she looked as every bit as ethereal as she had covered in wisteria petals earlier. Not wanting to disturb her, but nevertheless wanting to be close, Chat Noir crawled onto the chaise. Rubbing his head against her hand, he burrowed beneath it and left it on his hair. Stretching out his arms, he cuddled the entire blanket with her inside and relaxed.

His tail flicked idly as he got comfortable and the purr rumbled between them, even as he closed his eyes to doze with her.

Marinette’s fingers flexed. “Hello, kitty,” she murmured, her voice thick with sleep.

“Mmrew?”

Her other hand untangled from the blanket and made its way into his hair. Coaxing him, she whispered, “Come up here.”

Purring louder, he lifted up and crawled along her until he reached her head. Butting his head gently against hers, he said, “Hello, Princess. Sorry if I woke you. I didn’t mean to be this late but I had a last minute shoot.”

Eyes closed, she turned her face toward his. “I was awake.”

“Sure you were.” He settled his weight down on her, nestling down between her legs and pressed his nose to her neck. “Warm enough?”

Her cheek rubbed against the top of his head while her finger massaged his head. “I am now.”

“Purring blanket, at your service.”

“Purrfect.” Slightly more awake now, she turned both her hands into finely tuned sinners, roaming across his upper body and through his hair. Each hand had its own journey to complete. While one danced up his jaw, the other ran nails down his spine. One feather-touched along his lips while the other grazed against his ear.  When he pushed into one hand to encourage stronger pets, the other would become more forceful and enticing. She toyed with him and every time he opened his eyes, she was smiling to herself.

Leaning into a hand that wouldn’t pet harder no matter how hard he coaxed, he flopped sideways away from her. “You’re teasing me.”

“Yup.” Abruptly sitting up, Marinette lurched out of her blankets and straddled him. She wriggled, repositioning both herself and her blanket until one knee on either side of his hips and he was flat on his back. Flopping against his chest, she pulled the blanket over both of them and rested her forehead on his neck.

His hands wove around her. “This is new.”

A hand found his ear to scratch. “Comfy and warm.”

“You don’t want kisses?”

Lifting her head, her lips found his in a lingering and leisurely kiss. Slow and lazy, there was peace and contentment between them, a complete opposite from the frenzy they found themselves in earlier in the day.

He pricked her shoulders with the very tip of his claws, hoping to entice the return of her amorous mood. Although she thrummed at him, the kisses remained slow. Gentle strokes of her hands, designed to soothe rather than rile.

Gone was the sad, lonely boy and the sad, lonely girl. No more heartache. Now, they made something more, something better. An obsession with pats and misplaced yearnings might have brought them together, but it faded beneath the brilliance of what held them now. Trust and happiness and the stirrings of a deep love neither of them was ready to admit. 

Breaking the kiss, she sighed and her fingers gently stroking his ear. “I can get kisses anytime,” she murmured and snuggled deeper into his embrace. “This? This is better than kisses.”

Purring, Chat Noir closed his eyes and wrapped himself around her, completely agreeing.