Felix had never been so happy to watch his paycheck crumble before his eyes. Adrien chomped away across the table from him, stuffing his cheeks with huge mouthfuls at a time. Felix had long since had his fill of the greasy Japanese dumplings, but Adrien was on his third order.
“This is amazing!” the boy said as he chewed. “I’ve always wanted to try these!”
“That’s good, but you should really slow down,” Felix chided, handing his brother a napkin.
Adrien laid down his chopsticks. “Ah, right. Sorry.” And, finishing his bite, he sat back soberly. A few long moments passed in which the younger brother was silent, staring down at his hands.
“Adrien? What are you doing?”
“I-I thought I was eating too much.” There was fear laced in his voice that shouldn’t have been there.
“What? No, I said you were eating too fast, not too much. In fact—” he summoned one of the waitstaff. “Another order of gyoza, please. Actually, make that two.”
Adrien’s eyes sparkled as he leaned forward in anticipation. “Then... can I eat more?”
The brightest smile Felix had seen yet graced his brother’s face as he wasted no time stuffing his cheeks once more. And then, as the elder brother watched, tears broke free and began to spill down the bulging cheeks.
Adrien sniffed and spoke around his mouthful: “I just forgot how good it feels to eat as much as I want.” Blushing as he swallowed, the boy swiped tears away from his eyes.
Felix’s heart broke, watching his brother cry tears of joy. He was never going to let Adrien starve again.
The waitstaff brought the two additional orders, along with the tab. Felix tried his best to avoid cringing as he eyed the balance. A quick calculation told him that he would now have to wait another month to buy a kettle.
It was so, so worth it.
After the battle with Interrogator, the brothers had parted ways with Ladybug, retreating to an alleyway so Chat could release his transformation. Plagg, too tired to even ask for cheese, had fallen asleep in the depths of Adrien’s pocket. Then they had made for the closest restaurant, Adrien staggering along listlessly. As soon as they entered the building and the aroma of garlic hit their nostrils, Adrien’s dull green eyes had lit up, and Felix could swear he could see cat ears popping up on his brother’s head, tilted forward with interest.
Thankfully, the Japanese restaurant was fairly empty, and the few patrons seemed uninterested in the popular model who had just entered. Just to be safe, Felix selected a table in the corner, tucked away from visibility. And when he told Adrien to order whatever he wanted, he might as well have told him he was the queen of England: a mixture of disbelief and whimsical glee overcame his features.
“Adrien, you’re eighteen years old,” Felix pointed out. “You can eat whatever you want; Father has no say in that.”
It had been the wrong thing to say. Of course, none of this was Adrien’s fault, so the last thing he needed was a scolding. Fortunately, Adrien was distracted by the arrival of their orders, so he hadn’t caught a word of what Felix had said.
“I’m so full,” Adrien complained as they left the establishment. “And why do I keep—” a soft burp interrupted his speech “—burping?”
“It’s because you ate so fast, dummy.”
Although he was weighed down by the large meal, the younger Agreste walked along with renewed energy, cheeks pink with a healthy flush. And when he looked at Felix, his green eyes were bright and sharp. It was a complete turn-around from just an hour before, when he could barely stand. The fresh memory wrenched at Felix’s stomach: his brother, pale and unresponsive in Ladybug’s arms. Adrien needed to never, never scare him like that again.
“Ah, right here,” Felix said, pointing out a cafe. He entered without explanation, but Adrien simply followed him blindly. Felix led him to a couch in the corner where he would be able to see him from the counter, and Adrien promptly fell asleep.
Scoffing at the boy’s guileless behavior, Felix ordered their drinks and not five minutes later returned to the couch.
“Ade,” he said softly, nudging Adrien. The younger brother’s petite nose was producing a delicate snore—no. No, that was not a snore, was it? Leaning closer, Felix discovered that the sound was not, in fact, coming from his nose, but rather from his chest.
He was purring.
Felix recoiled, slightly disturbed, and Adrien chose that moment to wake.
“Here,” Felix said, offering the larger of the two coffee cups as his brother rubbed sleep from his eyes.
After a few seconds of staring at the drink dumbly, he said to Felix: “Is this coffee?”
Felix deadpanned: “We are in a cafe; use your imagination.”
Several more silent moments passed. Finally, Adrien spoke: “Father never let me drink coffee.”
The realization hit Felix like a train. This poor kid had never had coffee in his life. Such a thing bordered on tragedy.
“Go ahead and try it,” he urged. “I think you’ll like this one. It’s a caramel machiatto.” Felix had taken a wild guess and figured that the sweetest drink on the menu would suit his marshmallow of a brother’s tastes.
Adrien’s reverent sip slowly morphed into a joyful grin of epiphany. “How have I never had this before?” he gushed. “It’s fantastic!” He took several substantial gulps of the sweet drink.
It wasn’t until a while later, when Adrien had downed the whole thing, that Felix began to regret introducing his little brother to caffeine.
He went crazy.
Adrien couldn’t seem to stop talking about anything and everything. He told terrible jokes, recounted his battles with Ladybug, and let loose close to five hundred cat puns. He skipped as they walked along, vibrating with unspent energy.
“Felix, I love coffee,” he said for the umpteenth time. “Did I already say that? Anyways, I love, love, love it! Not as much as I love Ladybug, but I think it might be close. I’m going to drink it every day. You’ll drink it with me, won’t you? We can go to that cafe together; or we can go to another one if there’s one you like better, there’s like two thousand cafes in Paris. Felix, are you listening? You don’t understand—I really, really like coffee. It’s magical!”
Plagg hovered by Felix’s ear. “I told you it was a bad idea,” the tiny cat murmured.
“Bad idea” was an understatement. Adrien had impulsively jumped onto an inclining wall adjoining the sidewalk and was balancing along at an alarming pace. Any minute now, Felix worried, he was going to fall and crack his head open.
“Adrien, get down!” he said in a frustrated tone.
“Ummm.... Nope!” the boy sang.
Felix glanced around. Thankfully, it was late enough at night that this district was relatively deserted. Otherwise, passerby would see their city’s favorite model hopping along like a belligerent five-year-old.
Felix had an idea. “Adrien, come down here; I want to give you a hug.”
“Hug?!” the younger sibling repeated, imaginary cat ears swiveling to attention. He immediately took the frightening leap to the ground, landed on his feet, and flung his arms around Felix.
The latter’s natural instinct was to break away, feeling his personal space violated, but, seeing Adrien’s enthusiasm, he managed to restrain himself. Stiffly, he patted Adrien’s back in what he hoped was an encouraging gesture. And there it was again—purring. How was he doing that? It was going to take Felix some time to get used to.
Without warning, Adrien yelped and fell back.
“What’s wrong?!” Felix asked, startled. Could his injuries from the battle with Outlaw still be bothering him?
“My phone buzzed,” he replied flatly.
Felix slapped his own forehead in exasperation.
Digging the cell phone out of his pocket, Adrien unlocked the screen and immediately paled. “It’s Nathalie. She says.... Oh, thank goodness, she says Father left on a business trip earlier this evening.”
Felix glanced at his watch. Ten til midnight. “You should get back home,” he told his brother, albeit reluctantly.
“Don’t want to,” Adrien protested, and furiously stabbed his thumbs onto the phone, replying to Nathalie’s message. “I’m staying with you, okay? There. I just let Nathalie know.”
“What?! Adrien, I live in a studio flat. Do you know what that is?”
“Nope. Sounds cool.”
“It’s too small, is what it is. And I don’t have furniture. Wait—you’ve been there, don’t you remember?”
Felix tore at his hair, not sure what to do with this kid.
Adrien cocked his head to the side, pulling off his best puppy eyes. “You don’t want me?” he asked, pouting.
Hook, line, and sinker—Felix was done. There was no way he could say no to that face; Adrien was going to get his way. Of all the spoiled—! No, no. Felix corrected himself. Adrien was not spoiled. He was anything but spoiled. But he was certainly a brat, and he knew exactly what he was doing.
“Whatever we do,” Plagg spoke up. “I hope there’s cheese involved.”
“I don’t have cheese,” Felix snapped.
“Kid, did you hear that? He doesn’t have cheese.”
Adrien shrugged. “We can always go buy some. That is, if I’m allowed to stay...?”
Felix let out a big harrumph. “Fine. Just, don’t expect any luxuries like beds or personal bathrooms.”
Apparently, Adrien only heard the first part of what Felix said, because he took off immediately, shoving his fists in the air triumphantly and bounding in the direction he thought Felix’s apartment was in. It was actually in the completely opposite direction, but the elder Agreste had hardly any energy to tell him. Really, at nearly twenty-five, Felix was not as young as he used to be. He couldn’t keep up with hyper teenagers.
“Come on, old man!” said teenager called, and directed a mischievous grin towards his brother.
Well, now, that was just not going to fly. Felix took off after the boy and easily caught him in a headlock, grinding his knuckles into the messy blonde hair.
“Okay, okay! I take it back!” Adrien whimpered, and Felix released him. Helping him smooth his hair back down, he smiled at his brother.
“Let’s go home.”
Marinette woke with a start. Some memory had invaded her dreams and upset her, so much so that her heart pounded and a cold sweat trickled over her forehead.
It couldn’t be, could it?
But then, what couldn’t be? She knew she had figured something out, someone had said something significant, but for the life of her, she could not remember just what.
“Tikki,” Mari said into the darkness, and got a comforting squeak in reply. “I can’t remember—” She cut herself off, her thoughts suddenly filled with Chat Noir:
Chat Noir sacrificing himself for Felix Agreste in the battle with Outlaw.
Chat Noir being protected from Interrogator by Felix Agreste.
Chat Noir crying over Felix Agreste.
Chat Noir and Felix Agreste embracing when they had won the battle.
And, finally: Chat Noir and Felix Agreste disappearing into the night together.
Marinette sat bolt upright. “Tikki!” she gasped. “They can’t be, can they? I mean, it was obvious all along, but could it actually be...?” It seemed right, but she still wondered if this was really the thing she had figured out.
“Marinette, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, Tikki. I just never thought....” Blushing, Mari settled back into her bed, thoughts racing. The next time she saw Chat, she was going to have a lot of questions for him.