Cat Noir was in love. The sweaty palms, the palpitations in his chest, the sudden airlessness in his lungs every time she came near, they were all classic signs of a chronic infatuation with the one and only Ladybug. Some of it might have also been from the fact that he was running over rooftops and flipping through the air with laser-bolts firing at his heels but besides that he was absolutely sure it was love. Because a normal person would probably be afraid right now. A normal person should have been afraid of death or dismemberment or both in the wrong order. But she was with him, and she would never let him down. They were a team. He trusted her with his life and would lay down his own for her without pause or hesitation. And it was friendship too; of course it was that. But even without the running and leaping and lasers and flips and strange villains in pursuit, his heart still felt like it might break his ribs with its violent percussion in his chest. Because it was love. One hundred percent. And it filled him up so full with life that with each leap he felt he could fly.
"What are you smiling about?" she asked, using his tail to redirect him to a canopy below them instead of the neighboring roof. The villain in pursuit--Laser Disc--overshot them and had to loop back around on his giant, holographic ringed CD.
Cat Noir didn't miss a beat, even with his mind less than focused. He bounced down the canopy, his staff in hand. "Just trying to keep paw-sitive," he joked, siding up close beside her. With one arm around Ladybug's waist, he waited for their last bounce then pole vaulted them across the busy street over the traffic and out of harms way. People were screaming but they sort of did that anyway--especially with crazed disc jockeys flying in the air behind them.
He crouched low on the sidewalk, taking a protective stance, waiting while his partner called forth her Lucky Charm. His ring had only three pads left on the paw, his Cataclysm being used to get them out of a previous trap. Still plenty of time, though. Their enemy kept his distance, not trusting them now that they were no longer running away. He stood triumphant aboard his music disc, his bright yellow headphones and flaming red hair making him difficult to look at in the sunlight.
"This one goes out to all the super heroes in the house!" he announced to the terrified crowd. "Let's give it up for Ladybug and Cat Noir, everybody!" He aimed his laser at the disc at his feet and began to play another song. Dark trance--not Chat Noir's favorite but still something he could dance to. He put his hands to his ears to protect himself, though; making sure to keep the dangerous sounds from controlling him in the same way it controlled the crowds.
And then, quite suddenly, the fight was over. In a surprising leap from behind, Ladybug had launched herself towards Laser Disc with her yoyo poised to strike. On her head were ladybug printed earmuffs. She knocked the headphones off him before he even seemed to know what hit him. Then they were broken. Then the butterfly was captured and allowed to fly away. Paris became healed of all its damage while an aspiring mix artists sat stunned on the sidewalk, confused by his presence as all villains had been before. Another day saved by the miraculous Ladybug. Cat Noir couldn't be prouder, nor any more enchanted.
"Well done!" they called in unison, their fists gently colliding in the air between them.
Ladybug smiled, her face alight with the rush they both felt after saving the day. Adrenalin was still running through their veins, putting a rosy tint to their cheeks and a shakiness in their muscles as they stood apart from each other. The beep of another pad disappearing from the paw on his ring caught Ladybug's attention immediately, the happy daze falling aside for ordinary business.
"You'd better go," she advised, already starting to turn away.
Cat Noir had grabbed hold of her arm before his mind had even finished formulating the command. Not yet, he thought. This wasn't enough. As much as he loved being with her like this, saving the day and being the hero, these few, heavily interrupted minutes of his week were simply not enough.
She looked at his hand on her arm then back at him, her expression confused if not slightly put off.
"Wait," he said, though he'd already made sure she would for now. "I was just thinking. We should, uh... we should hang out some time. Not just for these sorts of things. Like... like friends."
Ladybug sighed, her tone exasperated, as though they'd been through this all before. "Listen, I really don't want to know your secret identity. Or have you know mine," she explained. And truthfully, they had been over that before.
But this wasn't about that. "No, I mean... I don't mean hang out as our other selves. I mean like us now. Ladybug and Cat Noir. Just with less people trying to kill us."
She frowned slightly, the 'no' it seemed like she wanted to say at least waiting in line behind the consideration of a 'yes'. Cat Noir wanted this. Almost more than anything, he wanted to he around her more. Maybe she'd like him if she saw him as more than just a partner in justice. Maybe? Even if she didn't, at least then he would feel like he gave it a chance.
One of the spots on her earring gave way, the beep sounding loud in the air between them as her eyes grew wider for a moment and her arm fell from his grasp. "Look, maybe we'll talk about this later. Okay? We both need to go before our miraculous power down."
His mouth was still open, half forming the words he wanted to call out, but she was already gone, leaping back onto the rooftops to destinations unknown. And they would remain unknown. Because she wanted it that way. Adrenalin depleted and depression setting in, he hurried off to find somewhere secluded to turn back into ordinary Adrien Agreste. If the transformation had the decency to withhold all feelings of affection from one identity to the other, it would certainly have been miraculous. But it didn't--of course it didn't. The only difference between Cat Noir and Adrien was the way he felt about himself.
Shrugging his way out of the alleyway and onto the street, Adrien looked around for a shop from which to purchase some Camembert. Plagg had earned it, after all. At least one of them should get what they wanted. It wasn't hard to find--he'd more or less mapped out vendors throughout Paris over time to get his kwami his fix. In no time at all he had a small box in his hand with his feet making him destined for home.
Home. Well, he lived there so he supposed that was technically the right word. He might even run into his father if he was lucky. Tell him how school had gone. Ask about his day. It might be worth it to, for once, make up an excuse as to where he'd been with all the madness of the disc jockey villain terrorizing the city. Just in case someone asked. Just in case someone cared beyond whether or not he'd met the items addressed to him on an itinerary. It was worth hoping for, though. A little. He couldn't really expect an entire day of rejection, could he?
He sighed loudly, kicking his feet against the concrete. He knew better. So long as he didn't mess up, he could forget about getting any attention from anyone at home. It was a wonder he hadn't succumbed to the tactics of other kids in his position: acting out, causing scenes, making trouble just to bring his father's scorn rather than indifference. What sort of hero would he be if he were to conduct himself like that, though? Not one worthy of Ladybug, that was for sure. Even if she never knew, he did and that still mattered. So it was quiet neglect at home and a strange form apathy at 'work'. At school, at least, he still had his friends. Even if things were changing for them all.
Nino had a girlfriend. Nino had a girlfriend and liked to spend a lot of time with her. Nino had a girlfriend and spent more time with her than with anyone else. Because Adrien's modeling schedules made his free time a bit too unknowable when plans were made in advance. He liked Alya just fine, really. She and Nino made a lot of sense. But Nino was his, and that was becoming more and more a big deal to hold on to. Except, of course, he couldn't. Because he had a career already. And it would upset his father if he didn't continue to meet expectations. So really, he supposed, he had... Plagg. Still better than nothing. At least he could have some small company while he spent his time alone.
Walking in through the front door to the empty sound of a hollow home, Adrien hurried to his bedroom to find at least some solace in his personal sanctuary where heartache didn't echo so loud.
The shutters retracted from the circular window, letting light pour in on a sea of butterflies. Even with the window closed, he could still see it--could still see him. The pain of unfulfilled desires; the sorrow of unmet expectations. Another broken heart in the city of love. Another disillusioned soul to bend to his command.
The ring would make an excellent host to his akuma. It was mildly noteworthy to see this new target was one he knew very well. All the better, really. He already knew this one could follow clear instructions and obey. Perhaps he would even be of use for once in more ways than the simple, lucrative ones. He'd get him the miraculous. They could do this as father and son. It was beautiful, really, to be able to involve him at last. This would be it--Hawk Moth could feel it in his bones.
He sent the akuma on its way, knowing by his own sight the path it would take to find Adrien alone in his room, in the very building where he stood. It took seconds, really for it to land upon his ring, and an even shorter amount of time for it to turn back and fly away.
That had never happened before. Hawk Moth stared at the anomaly, watching as his akuma returned to lay in his palm, quivering gently against his glove. It was impossible, surely, for something to reject the presence of his akuma. There was no known case of this ever happening in all his time making villains out of the people of Paris outside. The only thing that could possibly resist being taken over by his powers... was they very thing he was searching for in the first place.
Hawk Moth looked again at his son, imagining the mask, the ears, the suit and the tail. Could the universe really be so cruel as to make his own son his enemy? But what other reason was there for his butterfly's failure? And if Adrien possessed the Cat Noir miraculous, then that meant he'd have to....
Oh, but he couldn't. Could he? The fact that the idea had even occurred to him said more than enough on his willingness to do whatever it took to make the miraculous his alone.
He smiled, letting his joy roll into laughter which echoed in the chamber like thunder. He had Cat Noir literally right under his nose and, if he played his cards right, he'd have Ladybug shortly too. All it was going to take was a little bit of creativity and eventually they'd both gladly give their miraculous to him.