Marinette Dupain-Cheng was out on her balcony when it happened. She’d been watering the plants, a collection of sweet smelling flowers and herbs, when she heard a scream from outside of the bakery family owned. It was the type of scream that she’d found herself well acquainted with over the last few years, the type of scream that was usually accompanied by a super powered akuma. She’d never had an akuma attack so close to her home before, not in all the four years since they’d first started happening.
Marinette Dupain-Cheng may just be an aspiring fashion designer and bakers’ daughter, but she was also Ladybug, well-loved superhero and protector of Paris. She really should go back indoors, call out her kwami, Tikki, and transform into her alter ego.
The problem was, there appeared to be a black cat standing between her and the way back inside. He was looking at her with the kind of smug look that only the peskiest of felines could achieve. Of course Chat Noir would choose her balcony to land on. There were plenty of others he could have chosen, one or two were even closer to where the noise was coming from. Maybe once he moved on to deal with the akuma she could sneak back in and…
“Purr-incess~!” The inconveniently placed cat chimed. Oh, right, he was talking to her. She tried her best to look like she was listening and not like she was trying to edge her way around him. She trusted Chat with her life, but neither of them knew who the other was out of costume. “There’s an akuma nearby, you should get to safety.”
“Oh, of course! I’ll just go inside and wait it out…” She smiled brightly at him, radiating her usual half bubbly, half skittish Marinette aura, using the slightly lame excuse to shuffle past and get to her room at last, though she was stopped in her tracks when a hand clamped firmly around her arm.
“Stay safe, I’ll come check up on you after we’ve dealt with this guy.” He jerked a thumb in the vague direction of the akuma, completely oblivious to Marinettes’ growing unease and confusion. He took his staff, making a show of saluting her as he launched himself in the direction of the akuma. That was a relatively painless experience. Marinette hadn’t noticed while he’d been standing there, but there hadn’t been any more screams, not since the first one that she’d heard. Instead, she could hear a low droning that only seemed to be getting louder the longer she waited. That… probably wasn’t good.
She needed to transform and get out there, Chat was good, great even and certainly more than capable of holding his own without her in a fight, but they were a team, a duo, and she, ladybug, was the only one who could purify an akuma.
Thankfully, Tikki was waiting for her by the window, ready and waiting to go. She’d been discretely watching from the window waiting for Marinette to come back inside, having heard the scream just as clearly as Marinette had. Chats sudden appearance had surprised them both.
“Tikki, spots on!” It was a good thing Chat was long gone already, the pink sparkles and flashing light that accompanied her transformation would have been a dead giveaway if he’d been within eyeshot. All that was left to do was to take down the akuma, fix whatever damage it caused with the miraculous cure, transform back and carry on with her life. She’d have to distract Chat somehow to give her time to get back in before he decided to go check on his ‘princess’ only to find she wasn’t there. Knowing that silly cat, he’d probably panic and think she fell off the roof or something equally as drastic. She was clumsy, but not quite that clumsy. She huffed a fond little sigh at the hypothetical situation. That really would be just like him.
The akuma had moved further down the street by the time Ladybug caught up to it. He was wearing a garish, brightly coloured hat with semi-realistic rotor blades on, his whole outfit was reminiscent of a helicopter. Akumas had the oddest themes sometimes. The low droning noise from earlier had evidently come from the swarm of model planes, helicopters and various other vehicles that followed in his wake. That explained the costume at least.
“I am the RemoteController! I’ll turn you all into my toys!” Ah, maniacal laughter. A week in the life of a superhero wasn’t complete without it. Now that she thought about it, he seemed a little familiar. Perhaps he was the man she’d passed on the way home from school who’d been flying a neat looking toy helicopter around the park. He was always there on weekdays. She wondered what could have happened to make him turn into an akuma.
“Ladybug!” Chat dropped down beside her, batting away a particularly insistent plane without so much as looking. “The akuma’s in the controller.” He practically beamed with pride at the observation, ladybug had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. Let the cat be happy with himself.
The fight went like so many others before it, a cataclysm here and a lucky charm there and bam, the akuma was gone (give or take a few awful puns from both the akuma and Chat). It turned out that some kids had teased the man and made him drop the controller, which in turn made his helicopter crash and break. Chat seemed more distracted than usual when they did their customary fist bump. She hastily reached out and caught him by the shoulder before he could run off.
“Everything alright there Chat?”
“Yup, I just have… some business! To take care of. Yeah. I should go do that. The business. That I need to… take care of.” Even if she hadn’t known exactly what the ‘business’ was, there was no way that she wouldn’t have been at least a little suspicious of that performance. She hid a giggle behind her free hand, releasing his shoulder at the same time as both their miraculous chimed with a set of soft beeps. She came up with a plan on the spot that would give her that extra bit of time to be Marinette again before he came to check up on her. She’d almost forgotten about that particular detail during the fight.
“Oh? And I was under the impression we both needed to recharge before we take care of any more… business.” She watched as he sent a torn look towards the bakery, not being in any way subtle or discrete. Her little Chaton was so expressive and with years of practice under her belt, she could practically read him like a book at that point.
“Of course my lady, but um…”
“I need to check up on a civilian, Marinette, remember her? I told her I’d be coming and I don’t want to keep her waiting for long.” Well, he was certainly being upfront about it. That was likely his roundabout way of checking that she was okay with him visiting a civilian without her without asking outright. Well duh, of course she was okay with it, she was the civilian! Not that he knew that… Not that he would ever know that. Still, he’d never asked her about anything like this before.
“Are you planning on a long visit?” Another beep from their miraculous.
“Not really? I just want to make sure that my pri- Marinette’s okay after the attack. Akuma attacks are never nice, especially one so close to her home, y’know?”
“Oh, of course! How about I go tell her that you’ll be running late while you go and recharge? Maybe take an hour or so, give her some time to get ready.” Perfect, that would give her an excuse to go straight back to her room and transform back and give her a bit of time before Chat turned up. The cat in question just nodded and said his thanks before dashing off.
It wasn’t until Marinette was sat an hour later with her notebook in hand at her desk and a certain kitty tapping the glass that it occurred to her that Chats behaviour towards her as Marinette was a little odd. There were other people who were affected by akuma attacks all the time, why of all people did he think he had to check up on her? Even as Marinette, she was far from defenseless! He couldn’t know that she was Ladybug, he was acting too normal for that. Normal for Chat that was. She opted to shrug it off instead of overthinking it (for now). Though she would admit, it was rather strange.
That didn’t stop her from getting up and letting him inside. He slipped in with all the grace of a drunkard, stumbling slightly when his feet unexpectedly hit the bed. Yeah, maybe it was a horrible idea to put her bed right under the window to the rooftop balcony. She was so used to it that she’d forgotten it was ever a problem (that and it was more than a just little fun to be able to drop in after a patrol and land herself straight in bed). He launched himself over the side, ignoring the stairs completely. Then he spotted the plate that sat on the desk beside her.
“Are those cookies?” He said, through a mouthful of what were in fact, chocolate chip cookies.
“Wow, kitty. You’ve been here thirty seconds and you’re already eating me out of house and home.” She spun round on her heel and raised a hand to her head like she was about to faint before flopping face first onto her chaise lounge. He laughed through a mouthful of cookie, spewing crumbs out everywhere. She rolled onto her back so that she was facing him. “Ew, Chat. Gross.”
“Mffflly oogg!” He swallowed his mouthful and tried again. “These are really good! Are they from the bakery?” He picked up the plate and sat himself down next to her on the chaise, looking around her room curiously when he thought she wasn’t watching. Rude. Who taught this cat his manners? She thought he might need a refresher course. Or a new teacher.
“Actually papa told me I need to make my own cookies from now on, something about me eating into the profits, so I made these!” She only then realised then that her father had made a pun at her expense. A baking pun and a money pun wrapped into one and it was terrible and she hated that she hadn’t noticed it before.
He stopped still with a cookie halfway to his mouth, looking at her with his wide, startlingly green eyes before lowering it back down again.
“Did you make these for me?”
Well, she’d been going to make some for Tikki anyway but decided at the last minute to make a few extra, remembering the one time she’d brought him some pastries from the bakery (in an inconspicuous brown bag without labels) as Ladybug. He’d almost gone out of his mind with glee and had promptly gone on a sugar high after eating almost all of them at once. “Yeah, I guess I did didn’t I?”
They sat like that for a while, even after the cookies where long gone. Just the two of them chatting, sitting beside each other, him swishing his tail from side to side and looking around and listening to her prattle on about who knows what. His eyes kept flicking back towards the wall where her posters of Adrien were, though to be fair, nowadays there were more design references and other models than just her crush and classmate. After coming to the realisation that she was maybe being just a little bit creepy sometime during her second year of knowing him, she’d taken down the worst of them. She just sat and watched Chat, though at one point she’d gotten up to retrieve her pencil and notebook to carry on with her newest design idea, completely forgetting exactly whose company she was in.
“Woah.” She yelped like a kicked puppy at the unexpected voice in her ear. “Oops, sorry princess. It’s really good though! Is it what I think it is?” It’s really good, he says, what is it, he says. Sort of says. Whatever.
“It is, isn’t it! I didn’t know you were a fan.” He wiggled his eyebrows and Marinette had to resist the urge to push him off the chaise. She failed and he hit the floor with a dull and oh so satisfying thud.
“I made Alya a ladybug jacket for her birthday and she said I should make a matching one for myself but…” But the red material she liked was expensive and her wearing anything Ladybug related was risky at best.
“Buuuut?” he sat, propping his chin up on intertwined fingers looking up at her from below. He hadn’t stopped grinning even after she’d pushed him off. She crossed her arms and glared at the notebook, contrasting against how softly she spoke.
“You can find Ladybug everything, magazines, posters, bedsheets, I even saw Ladybug themed furniture the other day. But there’s nothing Chat Noir. It’s not fair, you’re just as important as Ladybug. And it still does sort of match, right?”
He sat in stunned silence, just staring at her. He’d seen the ladybug jacket already, Alya had posted it to the ladyblog and paraded it round the classroom, it was exquisitely made, highly detailed. It looked like something his father would definitely approve of, if not make himself. He couldn’t say anything, not without giving himself away or embarrassing himself, but that didn’t stop the happy bubbly feeling stirring in his gut.
“Um, Chat?” She piped up after a particularly long lull in conversation.
“Didn’t you just come here to check up on me?”
“You’re still here.”
“It’s been over an hour.”
“I feel adequately checked up on now. And you ate all my cookies.”
“Sorry Princess, guess it’s time for me to leave.” He stood and reached up, fumbling with the latch on the window for a minute before finally prising it open. He pulled himself up with considerably more grace that he came in with, disappearing for only a moment before he stuck his head back through. “You know why you shouldn’t feed strays?”
“They’ll just keep coming back.”