“Marinette, look! I beat your high…” Chat’s triumphant crow was cut off when he noticed that Marinette had fallen asleep slumped over her textbook.
When he’d gotten there a little earlier, she’d yawned as she told him he was welcome to hang out as long as he kept her awake so she could study. Oops. As he watched, she slumped further over and was in danger of falling out of her chair. He jumped to her side to catch her before she slid to the floor.
“Okay, I think it’s time for bed, Marinette.”
He chuckled as her full body weight fell into him. Yep, she was out cold. Thank goodness he was suited up, or struggling to get her dead weight out of her chair and up to her loft would’ve been a much bigger challenge. He set her down on her bed as gently as he could and she settled onto her side with a contented sigh. He smiled fondly at her. She was always working so hard. He was actually relieved he’d failed at keeping her awake. She deserved some rest.
He shifted on her bed to position himself below the skylight so he could pull himself up without waking her. But before he could, an arm wrapped around his waist and—with a surprising amount of strength—pulled him backwards. His face flamed when she pressed her chest against his back and nuzzled into him before she mumbled something incoherent and sighed again. She was still asleep, then. He breathed a sigh of relief. But until she shifted, or loosened her iron grip on him, he wasn’t going anywhere.
He didn’t intend to fall asleep. But her bed was so much warmer than his, and her breathing was rising and falling so steadily, and her arm was so snugly wrapped around him… his eyes had fluttered closed before he could help it.
He knew instantly something was wrong when his boots hit her balcony and she was out in her chair with a blanket wrapped around her. Before he could say anything, she hid her face and wiped at her eyes hurriedly, sniffling. When she turned back to him, her eyes were red and her smile wobbled.
“Chat, hi.” She wiped at her cheeks again. “Um, what’s up?”
“I think I should be asking you,” he said. “Why were you crying?”
“Crying? No, I wasn’t—this is, well I mean, okay, I was crying, but not because of anything…”
Her eyes met his and he watched her smile falter. He rushed to her side before she broke and gathered her into an awkward sideways hug. She rested her head on his shoulder and he felt her shaking when she started crying silently. He kept watch over her for purple butterflies and smoothed his claws through her hair in what he hoped was a comforting movement.
When her tears finally died down, she shifted sideways and he perched on the side of her chair with her, cradling her against his chest.
“Can I do anything to help?” he asked quietly.
She shook her head against him. “This is enough.”
“Okay.” He squeezed her shoulders and looked up to watch the stars instead. It didn’t take long for her breathing to even out.
When he was sure she was deeply asleep, he carried her inside and tucked her in again, this time making sure to avoid her cuddle reflex. Although he wouldn’t have minded being caught again, if he was honest. When he was back on her balcony, he looked back and noticed she was frowning slightly in her sleep and reaching out to the spot he’d occupied last time. That shouldn’t have made his heart flutter in his chest, and he couldn’t have explained why it most certainly did.
“Chat Noir, you’re not going home like that,” Marinette admonished him.
“I’ll be fine, princess, my house is like a… it’s a hop, skip, and a jump from here.” He waved in the general direction of his house and tried to give her a devilish grin, but in his sleep-deprived state, he was pretty sure it ended up looking more like a woozy half-smile.
“The fact that you just told me that means you’re definitely not okay to go home.”
He would’ve been offended that she was laughing at him if his eyelids weren’t so unbearably heavy. A late night akuma and an early morning photoshoot on top of his already full day wasn’t a great combination, now that he thought about it. Whose idea was that, anyways?
“Pff. Hawkmoth,” he mumbled. “What the heck kind of name is that, anyways? Hawk. Moth. Are you a… are you a hawk or a moth?” He yawned. “Make up your mind, am I right?”
“You’re right.” Marinette was still chuckling at him as she pushed him down to her chaise. His legs gave out surprisingly easy and he fell backwards.
“Whoa. You’re strong.”
“And you’re staying here.” She pushed him back down when he tried to sit up. He didn’t have enough strength to pull himself up again.
“Mmm. Cat nap sounds nice,” he heard himself say, then he smiled as he felt a blanket get draped across him. “You’re nice, too.”
He thought he saw her smiling before his eyelids fluttered decidedly closed.
When he woke up, a little less loopy and a little more well rested, Marinette was snuggled up against him on the chaise. He’d turned to his side while he slept and his arm was wrapped around her waist while she nuzzled into his chest. Her hands were curled up around her chin and she was smiling in her sleep. He let himself relax again and tucked the blanket a little more securely over them both. Best cat nap ever.
The slick rain on the rooftop, combined with his blurry vision, made him slip and fumble a landing as he ran over the rooftops of Paris. His ankle had twisted; he knew it from the sharp sting he felt every time his left foot landed. But he couldn’t stop. He didn’t know where he was going. Didn’t care. As long as it was away from the mansion. Away from his father and… away from what he’d seen. He’d have to tell Ladybug. They’d have to go after him. But tonight. Tonight he could barely breathe. Could barely see straight.
The hazy lights of Marinette’s balcony registered a minute after he crash landed. He dragged himself over to the corner and curled into a ball, hoping she wasn’t home. Hoping he hadn’t woken her from whatever pleasant dream she’d been having. He hoped it was pleasant. He curled tighter into himself and let himself weep.
The light from her skylight fell across him and he groaned. Of course she was here. Of course she’d heard him as he’d clattered to her roof.
“Chat Noir?” He didn’t miss the note of panic in her voice, but he didn’t move to acknowledge her. Maybe she didn’t know for sure. Maybe she just came to check.
Her hand touched his shoulder, then she was leaning over him, blocking the rain.
“Are you hurt? What’s going on?”
He watched her eyes glance over him, checking for injuries, before they finally fell on his face.
“Oh, kitty,” she whispered. She reached out to touch her fingers to his cheek, and without thinking about it, he leaned into her touch. She blew out a breath and her mood shifted. Became gently authoritative. It flickered something in the back of his mind. A memory. But he didn’t care to try to place it.
“Okay. Come on. Inside. Out of the rain.” She tugged at him, and his hand fell limply from hers. She sighed. “Chat, I’ll carry you if I have to, but we need to get you inside and dried off, okay?”
He sniffed and pulled himself up to sit against her railing. For a moment, he raised his face to the sky and let the rain wash over him. Felt nice. Cold. It ran rivulets through his hair and he realized he was soaked. His ankle was starting to throb. Inside. Right.
He let Marinette pull him to his feet and usher him inside, leaning heavily on her and wincing as the pain of his ankle set in. She sat him on the edge of her bed and disappeared to find towels for him. He hung his head between his knees and clasped his hands around his neck. Deep breaths. Marinette couldn’t protect him if he got akumatized right now. He wasn’t sure he could protect Marinette, either.
When she came back, he sat up and let her fuss over him. Let her fluff his hair with the towel and wipe his face and neck. Her bed where he’d been sitting was soaked through from the runoff of his suit, but she didn’t even seem to notice.
"I shouldn't be here," he whispered. "Marinette, if I'm akumatized…"
"Don't worry about it."
She sounded so sure. So firm. He didn't bother protesting anymore. Instead he fell back onto her bed and stared through the skylight. Watched the rain streak across the glass. At some point she crawled into the bed next to him and he wrapped his arm around her automatically.
She didn't say anything else, or ask him to talk about it. Having her weight against him was comfort enough, and he drifted off along with her.
"Pound it?" Ladybug held out her fist for him and smiled. He bumped his knuckles against hers and turned to vault away. Her hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Chat, what's the rush? It's over. We won. Don't you want to celebrate?"
His eyes slid over to Hawkmoth, revealed to the world to be his own father, and bile rose to his throat.
"Not really, no." He winced as her face fell. "I mean, I do, or at least I will. There's just someone I want to check on first. Make sure she's okay."
Ladybug's head quirked sideways and her brow furrowed as she tried to understand. "The Miraculous Ladybugs fixed everything."
"I know." He looked away, towards Marinette's balcony. "I just don't think it'll feel real until I see her."
Ladybug's hand fell from his shoulder in silent understanding and she let him vault away.
When he dropped to Marinette's balcony, she was there to meet him. Before she could say anything, he swept her into his arms. Into a bone-crushing bear hug that knocked the breath out of them both. He buried his face in her hair and breathed her in.
"You okay, kitty?" She laughed and the way she held him back almost made him believe she'd been just as worried about him.
"Purrfect," he purred before he sighed. All the tension and adrenaline of the battle left him. It was real. It was over. "And exhausted," he admitted.
"Me, too." She was smiling as she pulled away and led him over to her skylight. When they reached her bed, they collapsed into a sprawl of limbs, and he fell instantly asleep with her scent surrounding him, his arms wrapped entirely around her, happy and home.
He woke up first. Plagg flew into his vision and they shared the familiar panic. Leave. Hide. The small sleeping form of Marinette practically on top of him was both a blessing and a curse. He didn't want to wake her. But he shook her shoulders gently anyways.
"Marinette, keep your eyes closed. I have to go."
“Nooo…" she groaned as she nuzzled into his neck. "I don’t want to get up—you’re too comfy.”
He chuckled and ran his thumb along her bare arm, delighting in the goosebumps that sprang up under his touch.
"Unless you want me to let the cat out of the bag…"
She paused and he felt her face scrunch against him as she screwed her eyes shut. "It's okay now, though, right?"
Well, that was a loaded question. Yes, he supposed the identity rule was nullified by Hawkmoth's defeat. But he hadn't talked about it yet with Ladybug. And he always thought she'd be the first to know. He shared another look with Plagg, but his kwami just shrugged. Adrien’s choice, then.
As he ran his thumb back up Marinette's arm, he realized that more than anything he wanted this. To touch her without the gloves and run his fingers through her hair. He wanted her to look into his eyes, not the ones covered by Plagg's magic. Hawkmoth was gone. His father was gone. Ladybug would understand.
"Okay.” He blew out a breath. “You can open your eyes."
Her grip around his waist tightened, and she curled into him before she took a deep breath and turned her face towards his. Her eyes were still shut. He chuckled and ran his thumb across her furrowed brow, smoothing out the worried crease that had formed, before he ducked down to press a kiss to her forehead.
"Marinette. It's okay."
She shook her head against him. "Me first." She sighed and clutched his shirt. "Chat, I'm—" she paused and took another deep breath. "I'm Ladybug."
As soon as the words left her mouth, she opened one eye, then the next. Her breath left her in a short gasp as her bluebell eyes met his.
"And you're Adrien," she whispered.