Lights were flashing in Marinette’s eyes. In a way it frightened her more than the Akuma she just cleansed. Chat Noir did not seem perturbed by any of this, even smiling and waving for all of the reporters crowding them. He seemed more natural on camera than any other act she’d seen him perform. Both of them had been recognized in their superhero personas before, even having their faces on merchandise, but had yet to be pushed into direct spotlight.
For a moment she considered running away, act like her Miraculous earrings were out of power and excuse herself by swinging off into the sunset like she had planned this. It was almost like her timid self was slipping back while she was still in costume. People were shouting out questions and it was all too overwhelming to hear anything they were saying. Chat Noir seemed to understand the voices, maybe from a selective skill or maybe from his enhanced hearing.
“Oh, well, placing all the credit on me would be the real crime.” said Chat Noir. He looked back at her, with genuine conviction, goading her to stand with him. “As good as I am, Ladybug here is the one who sets everything right.”
He was holding out his hand to her, but instead she gravitated to his side, hoping to steal some of that overconfidence radiating off him away for herself. The sharp claws on his glove did not put her off, but So many people looking at them at once did. She could not see their faces beyond the flashes of the cameras, only their forms. No one was speaking one at a time. For once, she allowed Chat do the talking.
“The two of you seem very close.” That seemed to be a common thought among the reporters.
“Nah, We just fight crime together and then we fist bump and call it a day!” said Chat Noir.
“Are you two partners in crime-fighting?”
“Well, that’s really not News anymore. It’s more like…Olds.”
Ladybug’s subsequent facepalm was documented on the cover of the newspaper the following morning, underneath the headline Our Protectors of the City.
Ladybug tried to explain the situation to the Officer Roger, but doing so would mean admitting that not only had one of the protectors of the city had lost control of their powers, but that he had named his attack “Chataclysm”.
What can’t he just name things what they are? She thought, My lucky charms are named Lucky Charm. My yo-yo is a Yo-Yo. He is such a child. Maybe I should start calling him that too.
It didn’t matter. In the midst of fighting off the Akuma of the week, Chat Noir attempted to use his chati- his special attack to subdue them, only to miss and causing a cave-in at the exit. By the time Ladybug arrived the Akuma had ran off. Ladybug would be able to handle the rest of the situation on her own, but first she would need to be sure her partner was out of the debris or harm’s way. The officer assured her the situation was fine, but she had to be sure.
When she made a call to Chat Noir his phone picked up, all that got through was a crackling voice on the other end before it disconnected. So at least he was okay.
“Do you need me to get him out of there?” The Officer asked.
“No thank you, that’s something I can handle.”
The Officer then left to chase after the Akuma. Those options never completely work, but hopefully Ladybug would be capable of reaching the Akuma to cleanse it in time. She knew for a fact how capable of a fighter he was, so it rose her anxiety whenever Chat managed to get caught in a trap or locked in a fridge or possessed.
Before Ladybug could call out her Lucky Charm to size up the situation and know how to handle it, some gravel shot out from the rubble. It wasn’t long before the end of Chat’s baton was poking its way through. Ladybug ran to in, the small hole digging out bigger and bigger.
“You okay in there?” Ladybug asked Chat Noir.
The glow of his eyes stood out, and in the hollow darkness those were all she could see. That and the outline of his hair. They locked eyes.
“Yeah,” Chat answered, just loud enough for the words to get through, “I’ll be fine as long as I can breathe.”
“I promise I’ll get you out.” she said.
“Don’t worry about that now. Just go fix up the bad guy and your powers will fix the damage itself. Like it always does.”
His baton resumed cutting into the hole. “Yeah but… isn’t your ring going to run out of power? Are going to be okay?”
“Well, If I don’t make it, there’s something I’ve always wanted to tell you.”
Ladybug leaned her face closer to where she could see him. The fright she felt for her civilian friends and family but not usually for him began to grow. “Of course you’re going to make it.”
“Yeah, but…” He bit his lip. “A drumset gets thrown off a cliff. Ba-dum-tsh.”
It took a moment for the joke to sink in, and another for Ladybug’s emotions to switch from sympathy to enough anger to cause a second cave-in. She had never been so close to saying a swear word. Ladybug picked up the rubble and chucked it in his general direction before running off to save the day by her own damn self.
“Ah! Okay okay okay sorry!” Chat Noir’s laughter echoed.
After a night of patrol, the two got were offered a free meal at one of the restaurant they defended. It was after hours, so Chat Noir and Ladybug were the only customers there. Chat Noir was immediately drawn to the idea to the idea of sharing a shared dinner with Ladybug. “Simple, quaint, This place is great for our-”
“Not a date.”
“Exactly, for our ‘not-a-date’.”
Ladybug was too until the owner insisted they didn’t have to pay. She attempted to find a way to cover it one her own, but it’s difficult making a tab when there’s no identity to assign it to, and the real person in question has no paying job of her own. This whole crime fighting gig seemed more like a fruitless supernatural volunteer job, now that she was thinking about it, but that could be negotiated later.
“This is a nice place,” she said to Chat, “But they shouldn’t have treated us because of our reputation.”
The windows were drawn over to avoid unwanted attention. No candles, no open windows, only lights from outside bleeding through the shades. The rest was linen tables and internal lighting.
Chat Noir shrugged, “It could be about the exposure, right?”
In Marinette’s mind, she thought about the stories her parents told her when she was growing up, to follow her dreams as much as she would like to, but keep in mind the struggle her parents went through in a non-lucrative field. Never except pay in “exposure”.
She dug into the food, which was indeed good. “It’s a bit more than that to me. I’d feel better giving back. Maybe I’ll visit again in my civilian form.” She smiled, pulling scooting up until her ribs reached the table. Her family and perhaps Alya would enjoy a place like this. It would be comfortable to eat out of costume.
Chat Noir seemed to be looking on at her absentmindedly. “Y’know, you have a very kind smile.” He said, returning attention to the food.
She blinked at him to let him keep talking, but it seemed to be left there. “...That’s all?”
Chat Noir jumped. Then gulped down the food in his mouth and became more alert. “Oh, sorry, uh, your smile is so radiant that, um, when the m-moon hits it-”
“Nonono!” Ladybug held up her hands, “I’m not criticizing it. I meant…you should do that more often.”
For a moment Chat displayed a blank expression. Then composed himself back into his usual way, placing an elbow on the table to lean closer to her and the back of his hand pushed his chin up, causing his mask to be more pronounced.
“Oh? But I compliment you all the time, miss Ladybug.”
Ladybug was not amused by this change. “That you do. But most of the time it’s… how do I put it?”
Ladybug’s frown downturned even further. “You try too hard.” she said, “You always try to raise up some flare to impress me, when that’s not necessary. Being kind is enough.” Ladybug ate more of her food, glad that it had cooled off before becoming cold. Chat Noir sat up straight and pulled his head back to its normal position.
“If it bothers you, I’ll stop.” he said, “Just ask and I’ll cut it out for good.” Ladybug met eyes with him across the table. He had less of a smile and more honest eyes, even behind the night vision lens she was never quite sure matched his real eye color.
“Well, what you do doesn’t bother me per say,” she said, “it’s actually a little flattering but-”
“-But, there are little things you say that could be adjusted.”
He leaned back in his chair. “Such as?”
“The…’my lady’ thing.”
He grinned. “It’s a thing now?”
“It’s the one you say most often.”
“What’s wrong with my lady, my fair lady?”
As Ladybug ate further, she began to stab at her food as she spoke. “What you just said there, with a space between the two words, there’s no problem. But without the space, ‘muhlady’,” STAB “ I may actually be required to shove those ears of yours down your throat.”
“Which ones?” This time he managed to smile with both his mouth and eyes. Then he leaned over. “Say that last one again?”
Ladybug exaggerated her lips out and tipped an imaginary hat as she said “Muhlady.”
“My lady, m’lady, what’s the difference?” he asked. He didn’t seem playful or teasing this time around.
“I swear, Noir, I will go out a buy you a fedora if you need one.”
“Oh, you mean like in those old gangster movies?”
Ladybug pouted, wanting to determine if he was being sarcastic. He seemed genuine, even more than usual. “You live a sheltered civilian life, don’t you?”
Chat Noir chuckled but did not give her a response.
Every now and again the shadow of the restaurant owner would pass over the window of the kitchen. The staff was huddling around in the back watching the show unfold.
“What about a play on words?” asked Chat Noir, “Like…what was the one I used before? M’lad-”
“Don’t say it.”
“Mladybug- PFFT! You have a spray bottle now?!”
There was a stark difference between the heart-pounding anxiety of fighting crime and wading through the boredom of sitting though science class. In the worst of battle, Marinette truly questioned if she would make it out whole. Sitting there, copying the notes word for word while comprehending the concepts the teacher was saying, she would give anything escape on her own.
“The Earth is composed of four hard layers,” said the teacher. She drew a series of circles, and all Marinette could think was how even she could draw it better.
Her eyes strolled around the room. The window was open and the rain could be heard from outside. Sabrina was taking notes for Chloe, Alix was playing with a miniature skateboard on the desk, Nathanaël was asleep on his books. Inevitably her eyes fell on Adrien. Swoon. Today’s excuse for not talking to him was Marinette was too busy running out the door this morning to wash her hair, while his was perfect as usual. From where she sat he had a clean aura, even from just the back of his head. She thought about that, how boys don’t usually smell nice from a distance like he did, while she masked hers with lotion and perfume.
“The inner core, outer core, the mantle, the crust…”
Just like that the teacher erased a large amount of text what was written on the board. Marinette tensed up. While distracted, She missed the very end of what was written. Asking to repeat it would call attention to herself imply that she wasn’t paying attention (which, to be fair…). Marinette shot panicked eyes at Alya. Her friend caught them and rolled her own, but nonetheless grinned as she slid her notebook to Marinette’s side.
“While our ecosystem above ground is vital to sustain life, it does not make up the planet itself. Earth’s crust is around twenty to thirty miles thick. There’s much more of a compact geosphere to get through before even reaching the core.”
“Wow, the Earth sounds like one well-rounded lady.” Marinette whispered to Alya.
“HA!” Adrien spun around and gave Marinette a high five. He turned back, and after a momentary beat of silence from the class, it all went back to normal as if it hadn’t happened. It left Marinette in a stunned silence. Her eyes flitted to her palm, the back of his head, and to Alya, who was wearing the biggest smile of them all.