Adrien misses his Mom.
I mean, yeah, you knew that. But.
He misses her little private smile that cameras never could catch. He misses the smell of her perfume in the atrium. He misses the corner of her broach digging into his shoulder as she hugged him. He misses the click of her heels as she walked down the stairs to greet him before dinner each night.
It’s the curse of being an Agreste. His mother never allowed herself to look anything less than 110% after 7am, even in their own home. Her entrance was always preceded by the click of a heel, be it from solid winter boots, bright summer wedges, or smart business pumps. His dad, by comparison, is silent as a butterfly on the wing. He moves gracefully and unobtrusively while still holding power over everyone in the room.
The cold, empty, quiet house gets to Adrien sometimes.
Which is why he’s walking in the garden. He passes through it each day after school, but rarely stops to breathe the Paris air and enjoy the fruits of the gardener’s labor. The hedges are always perfectly square, the rose bushes de-thorned. The small bird bath in the corner still standing. His father hated the thing. He always said it attracted pigeons who would dirty the perfect stone pathways and mar the beautiful shades of green and red of the garden. But his mother pushed back. It was one of her favorite places. She would sit and watch the birds and butterflies flit about, listen to the hum of the bees and the sharp snick of the gardener’s shears. Adrien doesn’t come here all that often; the memories are too painful sometimes. But today anything is better than sitting alone in his spacious room.
True, he could leave the house as Cat Noir, hero of Paris, and spend his unexpectedly free time roaming the rooftops of unsuspecting citizens. But there was an akuma attack only yesterday, so almost no chance of one now, and besides, he’s got a lot of homework to do. His superhero persona is an escape from the real world, he knows. Sometimes it’s better to remember the good times than try to forget it all.
His wallowing, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that Nino was waxing poetic about Marinette’s family on the way back from lunch today when he mentioned sharing a treat from her bakery with Alya.
“Her parents are so cool, you know?” Nino said, “sometimes I wish my parents did stuff for me like that.”
You have no idea how lucky you are, Adrien had thought at the time, for all that your parents already do for you.
Adrien takes a moment to look away from the garden and up into the sky. It’s a perfect, cloudless day. For some strange reason, that makes him feel even more down.
It’s quiet. There are no bees, no butterflies, and no birds at the bath. The gardener has the day off. Even the water of the foun-
Wait. Is that... red?
Something ruby red on the base of the bird bath catches Adrien’s eye. He gets up to investigate. As he nears the stone sculpture, he realizes that spot of red is actually a shoe. He picks it up, only to find it damp with moisture. Probably from the fountain. Though the shiny patent leather (yes, shut up, he knows things about fashion, what did you expect?) is unscuffed, as if the shoe was new. There’s an odd dent on one side, like it collided with something hard.
Adrien looks around. Obviously, the shoe has been there a while, since it’s covered in dew, but it doesn’t hurt to check for a nearby shoeless woman. Though there’s clearly no one out here. Where could it have come from? The color is not something Natalie would have worn, and the only other woman in the house is- was-
But that was far too long ago.
Adrien tries to put thoughts about the origin of the shoe out of his mind. They were thrown; he won’t ever be able to figure out where from. Though he might be able to find the other one.
The bird bath is in the very corner of the garden, so the other one is either on the wall or - aha! Adrien spots the second shoe- lodged in the metal fence just too high for him to reach. He quickly scans the windows of the house - all of the ones facing this part of the garden are drawn shut with curtains - before channeling a bit of his Cat Noir agility to scale the fence and grab the shoe. This one has small black scuff marks on the toe box from the fence, but nothing a wipe with a rag can’t fix.
Now the question is, what is he going to do with them?
Adrien knows running up the stairs will only bring him more attention, so he strolls calmly through the house with the shoes in one hand. The trick to the catwalk, little Adri, is to walk as if you have a very important place to be. His mother taught him that.
He wracks his brain to think of a suitable excuse for why he’s carrying women’s shoes up to his room, but he never has to use one. For once, the silent house is a blessing. He clicks the door open and closed quietly, and checks to make sure Plagg is still sleeping on the desk.
Adrien doesn’t think he could take the kwami’s teasing right now.
He slips silently into the ensuite bathroom and locks the door. There’s a full length mirror on the wall. Adrien notices the bags under his eyes, the patch of foundation on his throat he missed when he cleaned his face earlier, the rawness at the corners of his eyes. He glances at the acne at his hairline, the tangle by his ear, the wrinkles in his shirt. This is not my day, he thinks.
He puts the shoes on the floor and listens to the click they make on the tile. After taking off his own shoes, he eyes them again. Will they fit? He tries to put one on standing up- but they’re too small, and he ends up collapsing to the floor when he loses his balance, hitting the tile hard.
Just when he thinks he got the right one on, he hears an extremely quiet knocking sound.
“Adrien? Are you okay?” It’s Plagg. Just my luck, Adrien thinks. “I heard a crash, and-”
“I’m fine. I was...” Adrien tries to think of a suitable excuse and fails. “I’ll be out in a second.”
“Mm. Okay, but don’t strain yourself. I wouldn’t want to have to find a new Cat Noir,” the kwami teases.
Adrien scrambles to find a place to hide the shoes. Bathtub? too obvious. Behind the toilet? Might be spotted by the cleaning staff. Under the sink? Adrien crawls over and tucks the shoes behind the toilet paper so they’re not easily visible, and then unlocks the door to go deal with Plagg’s teasing.
Not that Adrien can’t hold his own.
It’s several days before Adrien finds the courage - and the time - to get the shoes out again.
He’s got about half an hour before he needs to be downstairs for Chinese lessons, and though he should use it to do homework he can’t stop thinking about the shoes. And it’s not just how they remind him of his mother anymore - though he does want to hear the clicking sound and remember her hugs - but also had thoughts about how good they look. He’s a model. He’s surrounded by models a lot of the time, many of them in 8, 10, 12 centimeter heels! The shoes change the way they walk, the way their muscles flex, the silhouette of their bodies, everything! He’s always been impressed by the natural ability of some of them to strut confidently down the runway in what looks like an ankle sprain waiting to happen, especially when he’s encountered those who aren’t totally comfortable and seen the difference.
Adrien knows he’s going to be clumsy, but he still thinks it will be worth it.
He drops his bag (with Plagg still inside) by the door and rushes to the bathroom in his haste. This time, he sits on the ground to put them on. It’s a tight fit, but without socks he’s able to get them both on. He leverages himself to standing using the toilet lid without slipping and turns to face the mirror.
The first thing his brain notices is that the outfit’s all wrong - no color he has on complements the bright shiny red of the shoe, and the pointed toe is all the wrong shape for the soft lines of his t-shirt and jeans. Maybe if I rolled up the jeans and wore the jacket from last fall...
The second is that when he gets up to his face it all just looks off in some imperceptible way. Adrien chalks it up to the fact that he’s wearing women’s shoes, and though that doesn’t make him as uncomfortable as he originally though, he still doesn’t feel normal.
The third is that he feels a lot taller and bolder in the shoes. Like the height gives him some sort of superiority complex.
The last is that his feet pinch so much like oh my god. He’s so tempted to just take them off right here and now, because ouch, but he hasn’t walked with them yet. He takes his first step forward - and like any novice heel wearer, he steps with the whole foot at once instead of rolling his foot. This causes the stiletto heel to rock, and Adrien almost slips. Almost, because his cat-like reflexes remind him to bend his knees and crouch to prevent disaster.
A voice behind him pipes up, “Take a shorter step next time, and put the heel down first. You’re not stomping.”
Crap. Plagg. I must not have locked the door.
Adrien stands (well, crouches) totally frozen as he locks eyes through the mirror with his kwami. He can’t tell what Plagg is thinking, but he’s not laughing, so that’s... positive.
“Plagg! I was just...”
“Save it. I’m just glad that thing you’ve been tense about all week was this and not something really embarrassing.”
Really? Adrien thinks, This isn’t really embarrassing?
He realizes that Plagg is waiting for him to do or say something. Quick, think of something! An excuse, a question, a quip!
“What?” Adrien says, eloquently. Plagg rolls his glowing green eyes.
“Not all of the Cat Noir’s have been guys, Adrien. And even then, high heels have not always been an invention solely for women. Here, stand up straight.”
Adrien’s still really confused, but he’s not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially with his bad luck. He follows all of Plagg’s instructions, but the kwami leads him into a pose that feels really unbalanced.
“I don’t feel balanced like this, Plagg.”
“You will, trust me. Now take a step without leaning forward and put your heel down first. Then repeat it with the other leg so you’re standing at rest again.”
After a couple tries where Plagg has to shout “Less! Less! Take a shorter step!” and, “Not so wide! feet under your shoulders!” Adrien is capable of walking the full length of the bathroom without stumbling. He doesn’t know whether that’s due to superpowered bleed over, or his modeling career, or Plagg’s instructions, but he doesn’t care. He looks damn good in heels.
Just as he turns to thank Plagg, his ring begins to buzz and Plagg’s eyes widen.
“Quick, call me into-”
“No, wait! The shoes!”
“They’re fine, they get transformed with the rest of your clothes, now call me into your ring.”
“Plagg, Claws Out!”
Adrien doesn’t usually notice much about his own transformation, but he certainly feels it when his feet stop feeling like they’ve been squeezed in a vice. His boots may feel as comfortable as a second skin but they don’t give him the same confidence boost.
When his mind settles back into the tiled bathroom, he whips out his baton and picks up the call.
“Cat, where are you. There is an akuma robbing a bank. HELP ME!”
“On my way, M’Lady.”
If Adrien’s last thought before being consumed with getting to Ladybug happens to be I wonder if I can get some of these in my size without alerting my father rather than Natalie will kill me when she finds out I skipped Chinese then that’s nobody’s business but his own.
Adrien’s so preoccupied with trying to get as far away from the battle as possible before he loses control of the transformation that he completely forgets about the fact that he’s still wearing heels. Though he has enough presence of mind to get to ground level as the green light washes up his body, he’s still moving with forward momentum, and so he crashes spectacularly to the ground when his left pump catches on a cobblestone.
“Ow,” he says, from face down in an alley. He is aware of the sensation of Plagg crawling sluggishly into his shirt, and the pinching in his feet. It’s dark enough that Adrien feels secure in the idea no one saw him faceplant into the street. He is, however, several miles from his house, and probably going to have to walk home in heels.
“Need Cheese. Ugh, what?”
“You sure you can’t transform me long enough to get us home?”
“Adrien, I’m starving. There’s no way.”
“It’s too late to find a café. But I can’t walk home in these!”
“Then take the damn metro. I’m going to sleep.”
Huh. Adrien hadn’t thought of that. Though, on the crowded metro, someone would surely recognize him, and he - and his fancy footwear - would be all over the gossip rags.
He can’t call for a car - the Gorilla would surely ask him why he’s out in the outskirts of Paris late at night - and then it would get back to his father that he missed ALL of his extracurriculars. But he also can’t just walk home. It’s too far. Especially in ill-fitting heels, or barefoot on Paris streets.
Maybe there’s a 24 hour grocery store nearby...
But after just 15 minutes of walking, Adrien realizes he’s not in the right place to find a grocery store. All the streets are quiet. His best option is to call a cab, but he doesn’t have his phone. He did find his NaviGO card, which means he could take the metro, but still would have to brave the press tomorrow morning.
Just as Adrien resigns himself to ducking into a metro station, he notices a bright blue-green taxi stand at the end of the street. It’s even one of the ones with a call button. Relieved, and finally able to relax with a solution in mind, Adrien pops off his shoes and runs to the stand.
A tired Adrien awakens the next morning to an energetic and smirking Plagg. It took some finagling, but Adrien was able to sneak inside, grab his wallet to pay the driver, sneak back outside, pay the cab, sneak back inside, feed Plagg, and get to his room all going unnoticed by either the city of Paris or his father.
Not that the latter is very difficult.
“Guess what showed up on the society page this morning?”
Adrien’s eyes snap open. “No.”
“Plagg. This is serious.”
“No, Aged Camembert is serious. This is hilarious.”
“Oh, calm down. They’re not saying anything bad about you. They think you bought them for your sweetheart.”
When that phrase is absorbed into his exausted brain, Adrien groans frustratedly and collapses back down face first onto his bed and covers his ears with a pillow. This day is going to SUCK.
And suck it does. At breakfast, Natalie offhandedly mentions that Adrien is required to bring his girlfriend to meet his father within the next two days. Then, when he gets to school, all anyone wants to talk about is Agreste’s new beau. Nino knows better than to ask, but Adrien can tell he’s just holding back the real question.
When Adrien finally gets around to seeing the photo - how can he not, it’s on everyone’s phones - he gets why that’s the conclusion everyone jumps to. It’s a blurry, grainy picture from inside the cab. He’s clearly giving the shoes a look, and he guesses it could be interpreted as longingly. Thank God no one can see his bare feet from the angle.
The angle, which could only have been taken by the cab driver. Damn it.
Just his luck that after what amounts to a pretty good day for him - akuma attack notwithstanding, even - he gets a cabbie looking for his 15 minutes of fame.
“You know what you could do,” Plagg mentions on the way to lunch.
“What,” Adrien says with a sigh.
“You could wear the shoes. That would really give people something to talk about, and it would piss off your Dad.”
“You know I’m not actively trying to anger him, right?”
“Well, then what are you going to do?”
Adrien doesn’t know. There’s no girlfriend to bring home; he couldn’t even fake it, that would be wrong to his Lady. The story may go away, yes, but the kids at school will stay hung up on the new beau idea, even if the rest of the world moves on. He has to explain the shoes.
Just maybe it doesn’t have to be the same shoes.
When he gets to the house, he asks Natalie to put his personal shopper on videochat.
“Shopping for your new girlfriend?” She asks politely, though clearly still digging for his father.
So he sets the plan in motion. “There is no girlfriend, Natalie. The photo was taken at a bad angle.”
Though clearly confused on what he means, she leaves without another word.
“Camille? Hi. I need you to find something very specific for me...”
“For you? Or your new friend?”
“That’s why I called. Can you keep a secret?”
Adrien maybe doesn’t completely trust Camille, but he’s known her long enough that he thinks she’ll choose company loyalty over something as fleeting as an Agreste Scandal. She actually had some pretty great ideas, and like Plagg believed that if done right he could wear the original shoes to school, but Adrien wanted something less damning. As good as the shoes made him look, the world is not ready for him in high heels.
As least, that’s what he tells the little voice in his head that’s still scared of what his father thinks.
Adrien spends the rest of the day brushing off more and more of his classmate’s questioning looks. Even when they’re leaving the collége, he tells Nino with vague words that all will be revealed in time.
Adrien arrives at home to find the 3 boxes he and Camille discussed, and a fourth they didn’t. The first three shoes are what he expected: one red pair of wedges that look extremely similar to the ones in the photo (if they were solid to the floor and made in men’s sizes), one platform pair in a leopard print that’s even in height all the way around (cat puns. so many cat puns), and one pair made to look much like men’s dress shoes but are inspired by the chunky heel of American 70’s culture. The fourth, however, is what makes Adrien gasp: matte black wedge ankle boots with lime green accent colors.
Camille couldn’t possibly know about Cat Noir. She’s not that close to him; no one is. It had to be a lucky guess. Which is stretching things, given how bad Adrien’s luck is usually.
Adrien was going to wear the 70’s pair to school, but bring the red ones for show. Now, he’s not so sure.
He doesn’t have the time to decide right now. His phone buzzes; Adrien needs to grab a snack and then head to fencing, or he’ll be late. Again. He shoves the boxes under his bed and takes off for the kitchen.
Some of his fencing teammates tease him about his not-real-but-they-don’t-know-it-girlfriend, and Adrien doesn’t have the energy to make excuses so he just stays quiet. He’s distracted through the whole lesson, enough that he loses what should have been an easy match, but at least he’s made a decision and had some thought on what to say tomorrow morning at school.
On the way home from fencing he calls his stylist, and she picks up on the way to his room. Adrien catches a pleased look on Natalie’s face; she probably thinks he’s taking an interest in fashion.
He is, just not in the way she probably expects.
They spend the next half hour going quickly over various outfit combinations and settle on one for the next day. He goes with the leopard print ones- mostly because it’s the most casual of the three, and thus best suited for school, but also because of all the cat puns - and pairs them with a soft lapel jacket in beige, a black polo with leopard accents, and slouching dark skinny jeans.
After he hangs up with the stylist, Plagg reappears to give the outfit a once over. He hums noncommittally, then bolts over to the desk to eat some of the cheese Natalie brought up during the call.
Adrien grins. He’d been waiting for this. He strikes a pose, and says “Check Me-owt, Plagg!”
“It’s a nice look, Adrien. Not too purretty for your handsome face, I must say. But why all the trouble? Won’t this all blow over in a few days?”
“Think is your fault you know,” Adrien says teasingly, now that he’s no longer so tense about discussing his fashion choices. “No one will know, Adrien. They disappear with your clothes, Adrien.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault you didn’t bring any emergency snack for me, or you could have ran the whole way home as Cat Noir.”
“No, I know. I just... it sucks that this had to happen, you know? It was really the cabbie, not you. Though I can’t really blame him. I mean, the famous Adrien Agreste with a pair of women’s heels. At least I wasn’t wearing them.”
“Mm. I don’t know why your generation is so hung up on that. People are just people. I don’t know why you all can’t just eat some cheese and get over yourselves.”
“Life’s not that simple, Plagg.”
“I think you’re making it too complicated. Like your schoolgirl crush on Ladybug.”
“It’s not... Let’s just... one problem at a time, please?”
“Sure, sure. Got any more Gouda?”
When Adrien finally gets done with his homework he’s burned off all the wired energy from opening the shoes enough to go to sleep. After checking the Ladyblog for any new evidence, of course. But when he wakes up the next morning, all of that energy is back with a vengeance.
It takes him half as much time to get ready as it usually does thanks to his outfit being planned the night before, and he’s since up early anyway, this combination means that he’s at school before more of his classmates and doesn’t have to deal with them stopping him on the way to the classroom.
Alya, one of the few there before him, is the first one to notice. Figures, since she’s such an observant person.
“Adrien! You look... taller?”
Adrien gives his best winning model smile. “Right? It’s my new shoes! Like them?” Channeling as much Cat Noir as he can, Adrien balances on one heel and points the other. When he doesn’t wobble, he calls it a success.
Alya give him a look he can’t read, but holds a thumb up anyway. “Hey Rose!” she yells, “Come check out Adrien’s new outfit!”
As more and more of his class arrives, he tries to answer people’s questions. No, it’s not a new outfit from his father’s line, yes, the shoes are new, no, there’s no occasion he just felt like a change. When enough of his class have come over, he grabs the red wedges from his bag and gives the explanation he came up with during practice the day before.
“I saw these in the store window on the way home from fencing a few days ago, and I felt like trying something different from my sneakers. I think they’re rad. Then I saw these yesterday and, well, leopard accents are in this spring.” The last one is a bit of a lie, leopard print hasn’t been ‘in’ for years, and so he gets a speculative glare from Chloé. Hopefully she won’t call him out on it.
When Adrien’s answering Juleka’s question about walking in wedges vs. platforms, he doesn't notice Marinette entering the classroom, nor does he catch Alix swiping the red wedges out of his left hand.
He does, however, hear Alix. “Hey Kim! I bet you can’t run in these!”
“Oh yeah? I know I can. And I’ll look even better in them than you!”
That’s when Adrien knows everything is going to be okay. Even though Chloé hasn’t said a thing to him all morning, and some of the girls from Lyceé who came over to see what the commotion was about look somehow more chipper about seeing him now that they know he’s still single, it seems his friends have accepted the explanation for truth, and given up talking about his new beau that doesn’t exist. Even Nino has given him a solemn nod that seems to mean ‘I get it now.’
It helps that Kim and Alix’s constant battle for dominance has distracted most of the class. As his classmates abandon talking to him to watch Kim trip head over heels, he catches the tail end of a conversation between Marinette and Alya.
“-something new. I don’t buy it.”
“Alya, come on, you know Adrien makes anything he wears look good. He could just be trying them for a modeling gig, or whatever.”
“That’s not what he said. And that photo yesterday? I checked the timestamp. It was taken near midnight. There’s no way a high end shoe store - even one in Paris - stays open that late.”
“You’re overthinking it. So the shoes make him a little taller. There’s nothing else they could mean. It’s not like they’re women’s shoes, anyway! Just look at the shape!”
“... You can tell from the shape whether a shoe is for women or men?”
“Yes, Alya. Plus, it doesn't matter. Adrien could wear women’s shoes if he wanted to, and it wouldn’t be up to us to judge him.”
“... I guess you’re right. It’s just the journalist in me that feels like there’s more to this story.”
“Adrien’s new shoes aren’t a story, come on Al. Just be happy he doesn’t have a secret girlfriend.”
“Right! Which means there’s nothing stopping you Mari.”
At least he knows that Alya will let it go. Marinette and Alya are super close, Adrien knows, so they trust each other. He may not get what was going on with that last part of their conversation, but Mme. Bustier walks in so he has no chance to ask her.
“I know I’m a few minutes late, but children that is no excuse to be running around the classroom making a ruckus. Sit down so we can begin the first lesson.”
As Alix passes his desk on the way to her seat in the back she drops the shoes on the floor next to his bag and mouths her thanks at Adrien, who smiles back.
While he settles in to take notes, he remembers that Marinette had said Adrien could wear women’s shoes if he wanted to, and looks over his shoulder at her. She was already looking back at him, but glances away immediately and blushes. Adrien makes a mental note to try harder to make Marinette feel more comfortable around him. She seems like she’d be a really open-minded and tolerant friend.
And she loves fashion. Maybe he could ask her what to wear with the black shoes.