One of Marinette’s favourite parts of being Ladybug was the feeling of night air blowing through her hair as she ran across rooftops, those times when she could be out without any akumas reigning havoc, when she could just be free.
And the giddy laughter coming from her right didn’t hurt, either.
She glanced his way, grinning when she met his glowing eyes through the dark, and sped up.
Their target loomed in the distance, a nondescript chimney that anyone else wouldn’t have been able to pick out, and her grin grew. She was going to win this time for sure.
Of course, Chat had the same thought at the same time, as he always did, and she could see him picking up his pace from the corner of her eye. It took mere seconds for them to skid to a stop on the roof, Ladybug grabbing the chimney and spinning around it to slow her momentum while Chat collapsed into a summersault with all the grace of a turkey on a Tuesday, sending him careening into a wall.
“I won!” they both shouted, silly grins on their faces, though Ladybug’s had more to do with Chat’s current upside down position and the smear of dirt across his cheek.
Ladybug sighed, sinking to the roof and leaning back against the chimney. “We really need to get a referee,” she pointed out, as she had many times before. “I’m definitely faster than you, Chaton.”
Chat huffed, righting himself, and flicked his hair out of his eyes. “In your dreams,” he shot back. “One time I raced the Flash, and I lapped him.”
Ladybug snorted at that, rolling her eyes. “One time I raced the Flash, and he’d barely started before I crossed the finish line.”
Chat tucked his hands behind his head. “One time I raced the Flash,” he said, smirking across the small space between them, “and he asked me to run anchor for his relay team with Quicksilver and Usain Bolt.”
“One time I raced the Flash, and he told me he only asked you cause the Super-Olympics doesn’t allow co-ed teams.” Ladybug studied her nails—or, more accurately, the red tips of her gloves—and smirked to herself.
It took a split second longer than normal for Chat to come up with a retort. “One time I raced the Flash, and he—”
Chat broke off, and Ladybug struggled to hold in a snort. His entire body was currently vibrating, and, while it was funny to watch him buzz against the rooftop, she knew from experience that it wasn’t very enjoyable.
“Phone call?” she questioned, as though she didn’t know that that was exactly what that meant, and Chat sighed.
“It’s probably Na—my mom-like-person,” he said, pushing himself to his feet. “I should answer.”
Ladybug waved him on, and he rounded the chimney before she heard him releasing his transformation and felt the swell of energy that came with it.
“Hey. How’s it going?”
Ladybug debated the merits of relaxing further into the chimney behind her. If Chat’s mom-like-person—also referred to as nanny, assistant, secretary, and about a half-dozen other titles that Ladybug couldn’t remember, unless they were all different people and Chat had an army of mother-figures in his life—was calling, she’d probably noticed he wasn’t doing whatever he’d said he was doing and they’d have to cut patrol short.
“Uh, yeah, I’m definitely still at his house. We got caught up playing a new, uh, video game and I lost track of time? I’m leaving now.”
Poor Chat, she mused. Hadn’t he learned in four years that you don’t make an excuse you can’t follow through with? He should have come home from whoever’s house his mom-like-person thought he was at, made an appearance, and then executed the foolproof Pillows Stuffed Under Blankets To Make It Look Like You’re Asleep plan. It worked like a charm for her.
“What? Tomorrow? But what if I don’t want to?”
Her ears perked up at the distress that had entered Chat’s tone. She shouldn’t be eavesdropping. It was really a terrible habit—thank you, Alya—and she especially shouldn’t be eavesdropping on Chat Noir’s civilian identity’s phone call with his mom-like-person when this could jeopardize his identity. It was not a smart plan. Get your shit together, Ladybug.
“Tell him I’m not going. I have a maths test, and a group project, and plans. I can’t just cancel on everyone last minute.”
Ladybug frowned. This didn’t sound good. She really shouldn’t be listening, but she couldn’t help herself. What was Chat being made to do? Who was making him do it? She could hear him pacing around on the other side of the chimney as he argued with his mom-like-person.
“Can’t you talk to him for me? Please? I don’t want—Bonsoir, Père. Yes, I know, but—”
Shit. This definitely wasn’t good. The little that Ladybug had heard about Chat’s father had never shone him in a very good light, and, from the way he’d silenced Chat in seconds, her opinion of the man was getting worse.
It was a few long, silent minutes before Chat spoke, defeat dripping from his words.
“Of course. I understand. I’ll be ready.”
She assumed he ended the call after that, because he called on his transformation a second later. It took him a moment before he rounded the chimney, dropping down beside Ladybug with a sigh.
“I have good news, bad news, and worse news.” He leaned his head on her shoulder, taking her hand in his.
Ladybug decided to pretend she hadn’t heard the entire conversation. She shouldn’t have been eavesdropping anyway, and she knew Chat would tell her the parts he wanted her to know anyway.
“Your mom-like-person wants you home?” she guessed, and Chat sighed again.
“Un-fur-tunately.” His claws picked at the red suit over her hand, as though he was trying to peel it away from her skin. “That’s the bad news.”
Ladybug nodded, wrapping her free arm around his back. “So what’s the worse news?” she prompted.
Chat was silent again, turning her hand over and over. “Apparently we’re going out of the country for two weeks,” he spat, mouth turning in a scowl. “And I don’t get a say.”
“A vacation sounds like it would be fun, Chat,” Ladybug said slowly, frowning. Sure, it would be more difficult fighting akumas on her own, it always was, but she could handle it. Clearly there was something she wasn’t getting. “Why is that the worse news?”
“We’re leaving tomorrow morning.”
“Oh.” That was different. Usually when Chat’s father decided they were leaving the country, they had at least a week’s notice for Ladybug to get prepared to be on her own. Less than twelve hours was definitely cutting it close. What if they hadn’t been on patrol? What if he hadn’t had a chance to tell her he’d be gone? “That sucks.”
She pulled him closer, and they ignored the fact that his mom-like-person was waiting for him to get home for a few more minutes. It really wasn’t fair of her to interrupt their time together to tell him that they wouldn’t get any time together for the next two weeks.
It happened occasionally, Chat having to leave the country. All Ladybug knew was that his father travelled a lot for work, and sometimes would decide he wanted Chat with him. Which she could tell was not as good a deal for Chat as it sounded. It had been a good year and a half, though, since the last time he’d had to leave for more than a couple of days at a time, though, and the hollow feeling building in her gut was definitely not a reaction she could remember having.
Eventually Chat sighed again, pulling away from her grip to stand.
“I should get going before she phones again,” he said, shuddering at the thought.
Ladybug nodded, jumping to her feet. “I can handle the akumas,” she assured him, and he offered her a small smile. He pulled the baton off his waist, and turned to leave. “Hey, Chat?”
“Yeah?” He glanced over his shoulder at her.
“You said you had good news, too?”
“Oh, right.” Chat turned back, swinging his baton over his shoulders as his smirk returned to his face. “I’ll give you a hint. Who’s red and black and spotted all over and gets to get the best Italian souvenirs money can buy?”
Ladybug felt something tightening in her chest, but brushed it aside to scowl at her partner. “Chat, no.”
“Seriously,” she insisted, crossing her arms over her chest. “No. Last time you went on vacation, you bought me a one of a kind Versace dress that was embroidered with literal gold. You’re not allowed to spend that much money on me.”
Chat shrugged, letting go of the baton with one hand to wave off her concerns. “I know a person. I got it at a steal.” He didn’t mention that the “person” he knew was Donatella Versace herself. Ladybug only deepened her scowl, and Chat shrugged again. “So I won’t buy you another Versace. You really only need one, anyway.”
He grinned at her, tapping a claw against her nose. “I promise I will control myself, my Lady,” he assured her, and Ladybug let her stance relax. “Nothing outrageously expensive. A few hundred euro is my limit.”
And she was tensing back up. “A few hundred euro is outrageously expensive,” she pointed out. Who the hell was he, thinking a few hundred euro was just a little gift? Or that she had been overreacting over a multi-thousand dollar dress she couldn’t even wear anywhere? Because, really. Where was Marinette supposed to have gotten a one of a kind Versace? And what kind of parties did Chat expect her to be going to where a Versace would fit in?
But Chat just grinned, undeterred by their differing definitions of ‘outrageously expensive’, and pulled one of her arms from its crossed position.
“I’m afraid I must bid you adieu,” he said, leaning down to press a kiss against her knuckles. “My mom-like-person is expecting me.”
Ladybug pulled her hand back, placing it and her other on her hips. “Chat, no. We’re discussing this.” She leveled him with a glare that seemed to have zero percent of its desired effect. “You aren’t buying me expensive things. I won’t let you.”
Chat’s smirk grew, and he twirled his baton in his fingers. “I can’t hear you from all the way in the past, Bugaboo,” he said with a wink. “I’m on Italy time. See you in two weeks.”
And, with that, he was gone, propelling himself across rooftops and leaving Ladybug to shout after him.
“There’s no time difference between France and Italy, Chat Noir!”
Marinette woke up feeling strange, like something was hollowed out inside her.
But she contributed that to the fact that she’d been woken by a combination of a LadyblogAkuma Alert, Tikki jumping on her face, and semi-distant screams of terror. So she had the right to be feeling a little off as she stumbled into clothes, yelled a goodbye to her parents, and went off to fight a supervillain without having breakfast.
Long Jean was a kid who might have been six who, from what Ladybug could gather, was mad that his mother wouldn’t let him eat doughnuts for breakfast.
Joke’s on you, kid, Ladybug thought, catching a projectile that he’d shot from his gun. Become a superhero and you’ll get doughnuts for breakfast. She took a large bite from the jelly filled monstrosity to prove her silent point, but the pastry filling her belly did little to push away the hollowness. Maybe she just had to eat a lot of doughnuts.
She dodged another stream of doughy projectiles, summersaulting behind a billboard just in time for Adrien’s giant face to get splattered with chocolate glaze.
Ladybug pulled her yo-yo off her waist, flipping it open to glance at the screen at the time displayed there. She’d been fighting Long Jean for over half an hour now. Where the hell was Chat?
Something exploded from across the street, and she sighed. Why did the akuma have to have doughnut bombs? What was the point of that? It didn’t even make sense aesthetically.
She clicked her yo-yo shut and tossed it across the street, the string tightening as it caught on its target. With a flick of her wrist, she was sailing back into the battle, hoping that Chat would make it soon.
Ladybug was midair when she remembered. He wasn’t coming. He wouldn’t be at this battle, because he was in Italy. Or on his way to Italy. Or stuck in layover in an airport somewhere. But the point still stood.
Chat Noir wouldn’t be there today.
It was at that moment that Ladybug slammed into the side of the building whose roof she had been aiming for, and spent the following humiliating seconds skidding down to the street.
Marinette was late for school, which wasn’t entirely new, and thankfully the akuma attack was a decent enough excuse that no one really questioned her lateness. And the fact that Alya was even later than her definitely helped.
She smiled at her friend as she joined the class, but was too distracted to even attempt to listen to Alya’s recap of the Long Jean battle. Alya didn’t seem to care too much about her lack of a rapt audience, but, if Marinette was being honest with herself, she wouldn’t have noticed if Alya was annoyed either way.
The morning passed slowly, full of staring at chalkboards without registering anything written on them and thanking the powers that be for not having any teachers calling on her. Because, really, if it wasn’t for Alya physically directing her from class to class, Marinette would probably still be in that seat in the first room, kilometres away inside her head.
She wondered whether Chat had left yet. He probably had, she reasoned, considering he’d said they were leaving early and the fact that he’d missed the attack that morning. But had he made it to Italy yet? Or was he still on the plane?
She’d gathered over the years that Chat was well off. So clearly there’d be no flying coach like any normal person on a last minute trip. But would he be in first class? Or was his family rich enough that they had their own private plane? The only people she knew who were that rich were Chloe and Adrien, but she figured there must be other blond teenagers out there whose parents had that kind of money.
Maybe Chat was already in Italy. Had she ever figured out what it was that his father did for a living? She didn’t think so.
Maybe he designed scuba equipment and Chat was currently kilometres under the sea exploring some ancient sunken city.
Or maybe his father was an actor, and Chat had been called in to play his long lost son in a new action movie. Maybe he was sipping champagne against a dramatic backdrop while fake gunshots flew overhead.
There were far too many possibilities as to what Chat was doing in Italy, and they flew through her head at a rapid pace, each frame posing Chat in a glorious light.
Marinette sighed dreamily as she pictured Chat rowing in a gondola, the setting sun bathing him in a golden light—despite her correct statement the night before that there was, in fact, no time difference between France and Italy, and thus proving her vision currently entirely false—and Alya’s elbow connected with her gut for the millionth time that morning. She quickly blinked back into focus just in time for the teacher to turn around and scan the class.
“Is it because Adrien’s not here?”
Marinette jumped at Alya’s words, and was shocked to find herself sitting in the cafeteria. She was sure she’d just been in maths—or was it French?
Alya sighed, giving her friend a look over her peanut butter and jam sandwich. “Your whole astronaut approach to this morning,” she said, raising an eyebrow as Marinette hastily dug through her backpack for her own lunch. “Is it cause Adrien’s not here today? I thought you said you were getting over him?”
While it was true that Marinette had felt like she was getting over Adrien in the last few months, she had been rather distracted today. Sure, she hadn’t actually noticed that Adrien wasn’t there, but what other reason was there for her inability to concentrate?
“I am getting over him,” she insisted, though if Alya’s snort was anything to go by, her pause had been too long for her statement to sound convincing. “I honestly didn’t even notice he wasn’t here. Where is he?”
“Milan.” Nino sunk into the seat beside Alya. “For the next two weeks. Apparently there’s a Save The Bees Flash Fashion Show that his dad’s competing in.”
Marinette wondered briefly how she hadn’t heard of this fashion show, and how she’d managed to last half the day without noticing that the seat in front of her was empty, before her thoughts pushed in a different direction.
Adrien was in Milan, which was in Italy, which was where Chat was. What if Chat was in Milan, too, and they’d run into each other? What if right this exact second they were eating lunch together?
What did Chat like to eat for lunch? He’d pointed out a few times that he was on a fairly strict diet—which reinforced her earlier thoughts that he was probably in Italy for a movie—but what did that diet consist of? Did he like peanut butter and jam sandwiches, like Alya? Or a full box of crackers, a large bag of carrots, and a box full of cookies, like Nino’s lunch today consisted of? Or maybe something healthy but not too fattening, like Adrien was always eating?
What was his favourite food? Maybe she should bake something for him for when he got back. She was sure he’d appreciate it. They could have a Welcome Back To Paris From Your Secret Italian Adventures party, with cake and music and dancing and Pin the Tail on the Donkey. They could stay up all night, laughing in the moonlight. They could—
The bell’s ringing startled her out of her thoughts, and Marinette blinked down at her completely untouched lunch.
Stupid Adrien and his stupid being gone to save the bees. She wasn’t going to be able to concentrate on anything until he got back, was she?
That night, she waited at their meeting place for Chat to show for patrol for nearly half an hour before she remembered he wasn’t going to be joining her.
The hollow feeling grew inside her, and she sighed, flicking out her yo-yo and starting off on her own.
It was going to be a long two weeks.
TWO WEEKS LATER
She was early. She was definitely way too early, but she couldn’t sit around and wait anymore. So here she was, at six thirty in the evening, on the rooftop where they met at eight o’clock sharp every other evening, not knowing if he’d even be coming. Her heart was racing, and her stomach was in knots, and she was full of too much energy to even contemplate standing still.
“Get a grip,” she muttered, tugging at her pigtails. What was wrong with her? Why was Chat’s absence making her act so weird?
What was she going to say when she saw him? What if he had another ridiculously expensive gift? What if he’d gotten a girlfriend while he was in Italy? Or another partner, someone better than her?
God, what was happening to her? She wasn’t normally this paranoid. Alya would probably argue with that assessment of herself, but Ladybug was sticking to it. Usually she was a normal, rational amount of paranoid. This was just ridiculous.
She glanced at the time on her yo-yo again and sighed. Four minutes from the last time she’d checked.
Eight o’clock rolled around after half an eternity, and Chat was still nowhere to be seen. She knew she shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up. She knew there was no guarantee he’d be there tonight.
But hope she had. Two weeks was far too long of not seeing him, and she didn’t think she could wait another day.
She stared out over the rooftops, hoping to catch a glimpse of her partner, but it was no use. So she turned, pacing across their meeting spot for the millionth time.
She would go crazy if she had to wait until tomorrow to see him. She knew she would. So she vowed to stay up all night if she had to.
It was quiet for the next while, a darkness slowly eating away at her gut as she waited. He would come tonight, if he’d made it back to Paris, wouldn’t he? He would want to see her, right?
And then she heard it. The barely-there sound of boots hitting shingles. The shift in the wind. And three words called across the distance.
“Hello, my Lady.”
Ladybug’s breath hitched in her throat, and she turned slowly.
And there he was, shining in the sunset.
Chat Noir looked just as he always did but somehow a million times brighter. The sunset glowed gold and pink behind him, but his grin outshone it. It was genuine, not one of his played-up smirks, or the smiles he sometimes put on for the cameras. His grin stretched his face wide, showing off his perfect dimples. His hair was mussed in such a way that it looked like he’d just stepped off a movie set, the slight breeze shifting the strands. His eyes shone out from his mask, excitement lighting them up even from across the roof.
Her eyes roved over the rest of his body, taking in all the details she hadn’t thought to commit to memory, and she noticed vaguely that the emptiness was gone, replaced by something else, something new that was bubbling up inside, insisting on being let free.
Chat’s hand moved, and she noticed the slightly-too-large-to-be-reasonably-sized gift bag in his hand.
He let out a chuckle, amused by her lack of reaction. “I brought you a—”
Her call was breathless, as she hadn’t been able to take in anywhere near a proper amount of air since he’d arrived, but it still halted his words.
Ladybug’s face broke out in a grin, and she tore off across the rooftop, crashing into him. He caught her with his arms around her waist, her own wrapping around his neck as the gift bag dropped to the floor.
And then, on a crisp Tuesday night in June, Ladybug was kissing Chat Noir.
It took only a moment for him to reciprocate, his arms tightening around her waist and pulling her impossibly closer. She felt the pang in her chest that she’d felt over the last few weeks, multiplied a hundredfold, and realization struck.
Oh, she thought, with one of the few brain cells that hadn’t completely turned to mush at how right it felt to be in Chat’s arms. I love him.
Those brain cells eventually surrendered their armies, joining the rest in their mushy, goopy pile of joy, and she felt it didn’t matter too much in that moment. Nothing really mattered apart from the way she suspected Chat’s hair would feel if her suit wasn’t in the way, and the movements of his lips against hers. He tasted like sunshine and rainbows and a little like mashed potatoes, and it was quickly becoming her favourite flavour.
After a few long minutes, when they were both grinning too much for the kiss to really work anymore, she pulled away, hiding her flushed, giddy face in his neck.
“I missed you,” she whispered, because she felt her greeting didn’t quite express the extent to which she’d been longing for him.
Chat let out a breathy laugh, his claws tracing patterns on her back. “Maybe I should go away more often if this is the welcome back I get.”
He was joking, she knew he was, but Ladybug’s heart contracted at the thought of him leaving again, and her arms tightened around his shoulders.
“No,” she told him, pulling back just enough to stare at him as she shook her head. “You’re not allowed to go anywhere ever. I miss you too much.”
He gazed back for a moment, wonder and adoration pouring from his eyes, before he leaned down and captured her lips once more.
Ladybug wasn’t sure how long they stood there, kissing like they’d never get the chance again, before the finally settled onto the roof, but the sun had long since finished setting.
“I brought you souvenirs,” Chat told her as she curled into his side, dragging the oversized gift bag towards them. “Only the best for my Lady.”
Ladybug offered him a smile and pulled the red and black spotted tissue paper from the bag. “This better not be expensive,” she warned, struggling to keep a smile off her face as she found the first wrapped gift.
Chat pulled her closer, nuzzling into her neck. “Only a few hundred dollars,” he assured her, and Ladybug playfully smacked his arm.
She ripped off the paper and giggled. It was a snow globe, about the size of her fist, featuring a large bowl of spaghetti. She turned it over and twisted the nob before righting it again, the tinkling notes to Bella Notte narrating the fall of snow onto the spaghetti.
Ladybug turned minutely so she could press a kiss against his temple. “I love it, Chat.”
Chat grinned against her neck and reached out to pull the bag back towards them. “There’s more.”
And there was more. More touristy things, magnets and keychains, t-shirts and hats, a two foot tall statue of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Ladybug loved every one.
“Here’s the last one,” Chat said, handing her a small wrapped box that she was fairly certain hadn’t been in the bag—though, if that was the case, where he’d been hiding it would be anyone’s guess.
Ladybug smiled back at him, carefully peeling off the wrapping to reveal a nondescript jewellery case. She pulled back the lid, and gasped.
The necklace was gorgeous, made of spun gold that twisted around itself in thin vines, tiny golden leaves growing from its turns. The vines cumulated in a garden, a few jewelled flowers framed in gold that would settle against her collar. It was glorious, and Chat reached around her to pull it from its box. He nudged her pigtails out of the way as he settled it around her neck, and her fingers came up to trace its shape.
“I saw this and knew it was meant for you,” he whispered, pressing kisses along the line of the necklace. “I had to buy it.”
Ladybug turned in his arms, smiling at him. “I love it,” she assured him. “But it’s too much, Chat. I told you not to get me anything expensive.”
Chat bumped their noses together, shaking his head. “And I told you I know people,” he reminded her. “I got it at a great deal, Bugaboo, and if it makes you feel better, I got all my civilian friends something in the same price range.”
Ladybug opened her mouth to protest more, but Chat cut her off with a quick kiss.
“No take-backs,” he insisted. “Plus it’ll go great with your Versace.”
Ladybug snorted, settling back into him and thinking of the dress that had been hidden in the back of her closet for the better part of a year. “I still don’t have anywhere to wear that, you know.”
But Chat just shrugged, tightening his arms around her and nuzzling back into her hair. “One day you will.”
They stayed on the rooftop until well into the night, until Ladybug’s eyelids were drooping and Chat’s words were interrupted with frequent yawns.
“I should go to bed,” Ladybug sighed, not making any move to actually follow through with her words. “It’s probably almost morning, and I’m going to be sleeping through school at this point.”
“Me too,” Chat agreed, another yawn dragging out his words.
But still neither moved for a few long minutes.
“For real this time.” Ladybug nodded decisively, slowly climbing to her feet. Chat followed suit, and they just stood there for a few moment, grinning sleepily at each other.
“I wish I could see you before tomorrow night,” Chat whispered, closing the distance between them and wrapping his arms around her waist. “It’s too long to wait.”
Ladybug’s arms twined around his neck. “Maybe there’ll be an attack,” she pointed out.
Chat hummed, but chose to kiss her instead of continue their conversation, and Ladybug was completely okay with it.
“Goodnight,” he whispered after pulling back.
“Goodnight,” she whispered back, leaning in for another kiss.
Seventeen goodbyes and countless kisses later, and Marinette was finally sinking into her bed, a dopey grin on her face and a ridiculous amount of giddiness bubbling in her chest. She wasn’t sure she would actually get any sleep, even being home now.
Tikki hovered near her head. “What’s got you so happy?” she wondered. “Chat’s back from Italy?”
Marinette nodded, her fingers rising to play with the necklace still around her neck. The rest of the souvenirs were on the floor near her bed in their bag, but she’d deal with them tomorrow.
“And I kissed him,” she breathed, still not entirely sure she wasn’t dreaming. She realized vaguely that maybe it hadn’t been Adrien’s absence that had been distracting her all week.
Tikki squealed and wrapped her arms around Marinette’s cheek in a half-hug. “That’s wonderful, Marinette!” she cried. “And he got you that necklace?” Marinette hummed, her eyes drifting closed as she ran through the night in her head. She didn’t notice the way Tikki’s grin turned wicked. “I think your friends are going to love it. Especially Adrien.”
“Oh, yeah,” Marinette agreed, already halfway into unconsciousness. “He’ll be back tomorrow, won’t he? I bet he and Chat would be good friends.”
Tikki rolled her eyes at her chosen’s inability to connect the dots and settled into Marinette’s neck. Tomorrow was going to be eventful, and she wanted to have the energy to enjoy it.