They were such simple words, but they changed everything for Nino.
"Don't even have to think! I'm gonna choose two buds, who'll never let me down, that's for sure! Ladybug and Chat Noir!"
He'd meant what he said - he genuinely trusted the two superheroes and knew they'd come through - but the swiftness of their response was somehow unprecedented. As soon as they appeared, he couldn't keep the grin from his face. He'd cinched this. He had it. The Challenge was won.
Chat Noir had appeared in a matter of moments, and Ladybug followed soon after, skidding into the room with an almost embarrassed look on her face. "The party can't start till we walk in," Chat Noir smirked, and with a - somehow intimate and dazzling - wink over his shoulder had told Nino, "Hit it, Mr DJ."
And so the DJ had obliged him, spinning the deck so that the sound whipped and the music began. Nino was totally improvising, but he knew what he was doing. He let the music carry him. To him, it was a friend and ally more trusted even than the city's superhero duo. To him, music was an everything, an absolute.
Ladybug did not appear to share his closeness of connection with the music, because her movements were somewhat self-conscious. Her hips did not quite follow through the balls of her feet, meaning that the sway of her body rippled without real reason. She didn't know what to do with her arms, and she looked down for the most of his set, face as red as the mask that graced it. But she was dancing. One down.
Chat Noir had no such reservations, for he danced with abandon, in his motion a perfect marriage of elegance and impropriety. He didn't seem to dance with a plan, but each line that he drew through his limbs was exquisitely formed, and each sway of his hips was lascivious and languid, each move executed for the best display of the athletic arc of his abs, his pecs, his... other muscles that Nino had not been aware of before, and now saw with new marvel.
Nino was suddenly made aware of certain muscles of his own. His fingers reflexively twitched over the deck, slackening for a moment as he stared. His heart was beating time with the bass that Chat followed like a beacon. His hips, or something within them, strained towards this empyrean vision.
Everyone in the studio was staring - how could they not? - and Nino's eyes were pulled in with the rest of them. But Nino probably had a better view than the rest, because Chat was facing away, and it was as though that ass was gyrating for him alone.
This show was supposed to be PG, right?
That rating surely was going to change after tonight, because the way Chat danced was simply sinful. In all that leather, and with that feline prowl...
It was the leather. It had to be the leather. Leather was sexy by default, and so his awe had nothing to do with the boy beneath it. Nothing to do with that flawless body, or the way he made love to the music with his entire being, or the smirk that flirted across the edges of his face. Nothing to do with the admiration that surged through Nino every time Chat saved the day, every time Chat simply showed up. Nothing to do with anything except the flatteries of leather.
He nevertheless, along with likely the entire audience watching at home, could not look away as Chat continued to groove to his steady rhythms. He simply begged for attention. So often overshadowed by his partner in her popularity, it was in dancing that he excelled her, but it seemed he was more comfortable for the two of them to share the limelight. The superhero grinned over at his partner, took her by the hand, and whirled her around - Ladybug was shocked and dizzied, and Nino too, head spinning and vertiginous with something akin to jealousy. To have Chat's hand in his, and to embrace the music by his side, was the only thing he wanted in that brief moment. The truth was simple and crystalline.
Then, shaking these thoughts from his head, he tried to concentrate on his music, he really did try. But this damned boy, this cat-like thief, stole his attention time and time again. What did pitch and timbre compare to motion? They paled, became of lesser importance. Damn, was the superhero stunning when he was like this.
Nino didn't even notice that the studio was calling for a wrap, so captivated was he, until Chat Noir himself turned to repeat the producer's request. Blushing, Nino squeaked his deck to a halt. Despite the unceremonious, slightly awkward finish, his music was met with enthusiastic applause.
The applause meant very little to him now; he already had what he wanted, and it came gift-wrapped with a bell on its collar.
The thought was sharp and traitorous. Nino did his best to push it down, even as the superheroes caught him in a group hug - "That was so good! You've got some serious talent!" - and the cuplrit came up close to him, the leathery smell of his costume bold and biting. Just ignore it, Nino told himself, it was obvious that he had been somewhat carried away - music often did that to him. Besides, it was obscene to think of the protector of Paris like that, totally ridiculous.
And yet, he couldn't deny he wanted more. Just to see that again. Just to...
He decided he was going crazy; he needed to talk to someone who would make him see sense again, and he knew just the person for the job.
He tried to broach the subject with subtlety the next morning, "So... what do you think of Chat Noir?"
Adrien stretched back in his seat, his hands behind his head and tongue prodding through his lips as he pondered, "I'd say he's pretty amazing. He's such a good guy, and he's always so cool - it's more than enough that he does the right thing, and that he protects us, but he's always so stylish on top of all that."
Stylish? That was a word for it... He tried to conjure some of his inner calm, a little light humour, in order to project his own feelings onto his friend, "You into that leather, bro?"
"I didn't mean stylish that literally. But I suppose so, yeah, he's definitely hot, right?"
God, if only Adrien knew the whole of it. If only he'd seen that body up close, that question would surely have been posed as a statement - Adrien had apologised after the show for running out on his set (not that Nino had noticed at first), having been hit with a sudden nausea due to the intensity of the studio lights. Luckily, the Ladyblog had uploaded the clip and provided him with the opportunity to catch up, "By the way, I don't know if you're aware but there's a comment war on the blog at the moment. They couldn't decide what was better; your music or Chat's dancing."
"Oh, definitely Chat's dancing! There's no question about it, dude!"
Adrien stared at him, unable to keep the smile off his lips. So much for subtlety, Nino thought, the amazement had practically dripped from his tongue... So he rapidly backtracked, rushed out a gruff and hopefully ambivalent, "Or, at least that's what the majority seem to think."
"Sounds like you're right there with them. At the front of the pack of fans, perhaps."
"Could you blame me?" it was difficult now to keep an even tone, but he soldiered on "Chat has that effect on people. It's probably got something to do with being a superhero, or... something."
Gently, Adrien laughed, "I believe you. Besides, I'm sure you probably just want to sound modest. You know you smashed it. And if Chat danced well, it's because your beat was so good."
"I'll accept that one, but... I don't know, he's definitely a natural dancer."
He raised an eyebrow, quirked a grin, "Should I take back the modesty point? You know, I'm starting to think you might like Chat more than you're willing to admit."
Nino laughed, protested, garbled something out.
Adrien persisted, "I mean, come on, who wouldn't like Chat?"
There was something strange in his voice there. Did that mean Adrien liked Chat as well? He was sure Adrien had expressed a preference for Ladybug, bordering on something like infatuation, but now he had called Chat amazing, cool, even hot. Nino could've sworn that Adrien hadn't ever called anyone hot before, not even Ladybug herself. Could it be... did Adrien... was 'like' even the appropriate word here?
Of course not. Adrien was straight, and that meant that Nino shouldn't be thinking about his non-existent thing for that Chat as hard as he was. Besides, it made no difference if Adrien was straight, because Nino was straight. As a ruler. As an arrow. As the plane of Chat's toned stomach...
Well, perhaps not exactly.
"I guess Chat is very... uh... likeable."
A flash of something quite like victory swept across Adrien's face. Seeing this, Nino looked instantly sheepish, although he didn't quite understand the cause of his friend's expression; it seemed this was a new thing, not understanding boys, and not understanding himself.
But if figuring it all out meant spending more time with Chat... well, he didn't mind.
Wow almost an exact month after the first chapter!! it's like magic ~~
I'm sorry I've been so slow but a lot of things have been happening recently. I've had prom, end of year parties, and I've been low-key in a slump because I didn't get the grades I needed for my #1 uni but I'm getting it all sorted and I'm BAKC and I can't type quickly apparently
Heads uP! I'm on holiday so I might not be blessed with internet forever but I'll do my best to write regardless (no promises)
Nino's internal monologue is so fun to write tbh I don't know why I didn't get back to this earlier
It had been a full week and Nino had not been able to get the black-suited boy out of his head.
He found himself spending his dullest lessons thinking about Chat - sometimes mundane things, wondering about his civilian identity, if the hero was stuck in a history lesson as well, but those mundane things had the potential to become less so (would he chew at the end of his pencils, like Adrien did, teeth on the top and a dash of tongue on the base?). Then came afternoons, often with a new story published on the Ladyblog, and more time to think about Chat and admire his heroism, his bravery, his dedication. And then the night and some strangely lucid dreams... (teeth on the top...)
At least, judging from the comments he saw on the internet, he wasn't alone. Even though Ladybug was the preferred one of the duo, there were certainly a lot of people who had been overcome by charms of Chat instead. Bewitched. Maybe it was another power of his Miraculous, since it felt as equally cataclysmic as the other.
It was distracting, it was stupid and it was embarrassing. But when he'd salvaged his homework - and his head out of the gutter - he could turn to his music and it would all be okay. Music had always been a form of escape for Nino, a tool to clear his head, and if he was working on a new track there was no way his mind could wander. In those moments, music was all there was. In a way he was fortunate; the vision of Chat had not yet crossed with his other senses. Otherwise... well, he supposed he wouldn't get anything done - or at least less so than usual, which was admittedly very little since Nino took most things very casually.
His music-making software was open, his fingers were on his keys, his headphones were firmly on. He was totally shut off from the world, and his thoughts, and most particularly of all -
"Hey, Mr DJ."
Nope, nope, now his headphones were off. In his ears, instead of the track he was working on, a voice he knew, one that made him freeze up. His strangest thoughts came rushing back, harkened by the presence of the boy who first brought them into being.
"Why... what... how?"
Chat slouched into the edges of his vision, leaning against Nino's desk. He grinned, "Cat got your tongue?"
If only. "Sorry, you surprised me. I wasn't expecting... you."
"Isn't it a nice purr-prise though? I came here just to pay you a visit, you lucky thing."
He couldn't believe the boy had the gall to make a bad pun and sound fantastic doing it. He'd heard that Chat had a propensity for bad wordplay, but he hadn't seen many interviews where he slipped these infamous jokes in. But in real life, it was cute. It was really cute. It was -
"Wait. How do you know where I live?"
Chat's suave confidence slipped for a sharp second, along with his balance and his hand, which crashed into the pen pot behind him. Just as quickly, he had returned to his spot, curled his fingers back over the edge of the desk, flicked his grin back on, "I mean, I was passing by. I saw you and I figured I'd come in, I guess."
"Don't mention it. Besides, I should be thanking you. You did a good job the other day, at the Challenge; it was a well-deserved win for sure. I enjoyed myself."
"Well, that's mutual," Nino said, glancing away to spare his blush. It wouldn't do to tell him exactly which parts he enjoyed.
"That's good to hear," he said, all soft smile, twisting his torso to look at the computer screen properly, "And you know what else might be good to hear?"
"That's what I want to know Nino. What exactly are you up to here?" he tapped the screen with the tip of a claw, following the notes of music that were transcribed on the electronic sheet.
"It's something new I'm working on. Well, I say new but I've been working on it for a while to be honest, it just isn't coming along the way I want it to. I want it to be perfect, or at least better. Music is my... uh, my thing, y'know, so... yeah."
Nino's words trailed away. He didn't feel comfortable baring some great part of his soul to someone that had somehow managed to dig his claws into some other great and substantial part. Confessing his love for music would easily transform into a confession of another nature, and Nino wasn't ready or willing to confess anything he didn't quite understand.
"Yeah, I know."
He spluttered at him, "You... what... how did you...?"
"It's clear you enjoy it, I don't think anyone could create something so good if you weren't passionate about it," he explained - and Nino realised with some relief he was talking about music and not feelings. He continued, "I enjoy it as well, but likely not as much as you do. I just like to dance."
And Nino liked to watch him. "Yeah, now you mention it, you looked really into it. You seemed to genuinely care, I guess, about music or dance or something."
Chat's luminescent green eyes held Nino's for a long, meaningful moment, lips twitching into a smile, "Yeah. Or something."
"Yeah..." he shook himself and wrenched his eyes away, turned back to his screen, "So, uh, you wanna have a listen? It's really the least I could do for someone who's always risking his life for this city, if music is something you like. It's not totally finished or polished, or-"
"That'd be purr-ific. Please."
Before Nino could second-guess his offer, could prepare himself for the emotional catastrophe to follow, Chat's gloved hand brushed over his, metal claw clicking down on the mouse button, then retreat. Press play.
Nino averted his eyes. There was something so strangely intimate about sharing his music with someone else, one-on-one, in its raw, natural state. A track, particularly when in its infancy, could reveal so much about its composer, bared their imperfections with its own. Each drumbeat like a pulse, each guitar like the flash of nerve, each tune like the nebulous wanderings of a mind unable to express itself in virgin state. Nino was conscious of every flaw, of every fall and flurry. What would Chat feel? What would Chat think of his music and his heart? Thank goodness the majority was written BC (Before Chat), otherwise who knew what a limp, languid, longing disaster the piece would be. Yet even as it was, Nino felt some kind of shame. This was too intense. The proximity was too much. He needed Chat away from his desk, and away from his beating symphonic heart. He needed Chat somewhere else than where he was. Dear god, what would he think?
In his peripheral vision, he caught Chat's foot tracking the beat, and he wondered what other movement this boy was commanding. The clearest way of seeing Chat think would be seeing how his body reacted. So Nino slowly moved his head to the side, shyly let his eyes scour this foreign form and judge the rhythms of the mind beneath. The body spoke approval. His head: bopping. His fingers: tapping. His hips: slightly, imperceptibly moving.
Oh fuck him gently, did Chat really need to start gyrating like that?
If Chat had been facing into the desk, the movement would have been obscene, but it was certainly bad enough as it was - forget movement, because Chat was commanding all of his attention. This was a bad idea. This was worse than before because Chat was so close and Nino was so... undeniably attracted by this. Him. Everything. If this was a dance, Chat was leading and Nino was stumbling over his two left (now very gay) feet.
Wait - was Chat leading? Being deliberate? No, Nino could see it in the loose rhythm he followed, this was casual. What the hell did Chat dance like when it was deliberate? And why the hell did Nino want to find out so badly?
"Hey, Nino, bro, is something up?"
'Other than my dick?' were the words that almost left his mouth but he hurriedly got some others out instead before his soul left his body from embarrassment, "Oh, no, uh, nothing. Not one thing. There is currently a grand total of zero things that are up."
He coughed, forced more garbled language up his throat, "Just, uh, I haven't ever shared my music like this before. It's a bit weird. I guess I spaced out."
"Well, spaced out would be right because it's genuinely out of this world."
"It's really good, honestly. I know it's not finished, but it's going to be the foundation of something amazing, I can just tell. Like, seriously, I think you're about to become my favourite meow-sician. Keep going. Please, at least for me. I'd love to hear it again when it's finished."
"I'm going to write you a song someday."
The words were out before Nino could replace them with something else. Chat blinked back, "Huh?"
"I'd... uh, I'd like to write a song dedicated just for you. I mean, obviously I'll finish this one first, and I'll let you hear it, because that's what you want, but I think you should get a song just for you, because Jagged Stone wrote one just for Ladybug, and you sort of deserve one I think, and I'll make sure it sounds really good, I promise, and you're allowed to say that's weird because it probably is but you've just got me thinking and... well, I'd like to write you a song," he finished lamely, though he had admittedly started pretty lamely as well.
Chat's face was impassable. The eyes beneath the mask were unblinking, the lips stoic, the cheeks... slightly flushed? No, that couldn't be. Nino was sure he'd toed a line just there, committed some serious faux pas which had lowered the superhero's opinion of him, there was no way he could be blushing, and definitely not in the way Nino wanted him to.
But then, slowly and dazzlingly and unbelievably, and with a lot of teeth, Chat smiled, "That'd be really cool. Thanks. I'd like that."
"I'd like you."
He had to think of something quick, "To listen to it! While I'm working. You're welcome to come over if you're free to, like, evaluate how it's going. I want it to be really good."
"It will be. It's you making it. I trust you."
He shrugged, "The offer still stands, dude."
"I'll think about it," he winked, stretching back onto his feet, "Anyway, gotta dash. Thanks for humouring me. It must take a lot of guts to open up your heart like that to a weird masked stranger - that's what art's about, right?"
Nino's brain had finally stopped throwing out tossing out whatever first came to mind, but that meant that he didn't manage to squeak out a goodbye until Chat was already across the street. Berating himself, he slumped back down in his seat. Could that conversation have gone any worse? It was a squad joke that Marinette was messy and clumsy around her crush, but Nino had just transcended Marinette's awkward scale and gone god tier.
But if Marinette acted that way because it was a crush, did that mean...?
Yes, it did. Nino simply didn't have the energy to protest it anymore. So what if he admired, or fancied, or whatever-ed, Chat Noir? He wasn't anything less for it, he wasn't anything different. All it meant was he'd have to join the queue behind the most of Paris.
All it meant was that music was going to get a little bit weird for however long this infatuation lasted.