At first he thinks it’s nothing more than random happenstance. Marinette is cute. She’s smart, pretty, friendly. Kind. And cute. Really cute—
Anyway, the point is, he’s not surprised some boy has a crush on her. It makes perfect sense that the Evillustrator likes her. Any boy could like her. She’s very likable. It makes sense.
And then with the Gamer, well, he saw that, didn’t he? Mind you, he didn’t expect Marinette to totally kick butt at Ultimate Mega Strike III, but when she did, he could only admire because that girl was amazing. And that was before he played her
was whooped by her at her house.
But he can understand why Max was upset. And after that, of course the Gamer went after her.
So that one made sense, too. But then he ran into her again. And again. Napoleon, Waxinator, Weed Whacker…
Chat can’t ignore the fact that the number of times he’s run into Marinette around an akuma no longer fits on one hand. She’s starting to get as bad as Alya.
No, that isn’t right. No one is as bad as Alya.
But it normally falls to Ladybug to handle Alya. He’s fine with that. Alya is interested in only two things from him: his identity and his unrequited feelings for Ladybug. Not exactly his favorite topics. The ease with which Ladybug guides and redirects the sometimes nosy reporter leaves him almost as much in awe as any plan she comes up with for her Lucky Charm.
So Ladybug gets Alya. He figures it’s only fair he gets Marinette.
But what he doesn’t get is why Marinette is so often around akumas. It’s not every time, not by a long shot, but it’s becoming a bit too much to be a coincidence. He runs through the options. She can’t be causing akumas like Chloe, the other girl he sees way too often during akuma attacks. Maybe she just has really rotten luck? But surely even Marinette couldn’t be that unlucky. Besides, he doesn’t always see her during an attack. More often he finds her just after, when he and Ladybug have saved the day and Ladybug’s Miraculous Cure has swept through the city. Normally he’s on his way to find a place to detransform when he spots her, slipping out of an alley or from behind a bench that’s just a little too close to where the akuma was previously raging. And then there was that time he caught her actually running towards an attack. Since when was sweet, kind Marinette the kind of person who went running after akumas?
Then again, he remembers, Marinette has never really had trouble standing up to people she thinks deserve it. Does Marinette think she can give the akumas a talk to and put them in their place?
Please, by the power of all kwamis, please don’t let Marinette think she can stop an akuma with a well-placed set down.
And yet, it’s with that fear in mind that he drops down in front of her after a particularly difficult akuma attack. Stop Light was a common case of road rage gone horribly awry. The chaos Paris was thrown into was bad enough with any and all traffic signals gone haywire, but Stop Light also had the ability to accelerate any car or vehicle she chose. Ladybug had barely managed to use her Lucky Charm and cleanse the akuma before her earrings gave their final warning beep. She’d absolutely sprinted away after the world’s fastest fist bump.
And now Chat finds Marinette. Behind the akuma victim’s own newly restored car.
He thinks he has a right to be upset. And demand answers.
Perhaps picking her up and running her to her parents’ bakery is a little overkill, but he is stressed, okay? And Marinette clearly has no idea what safe is.
“You need to be more careful, Marinette,” he says with Chat’s easy charm, hiding his moment of panic. “This knight can’t always be around to protect his princess.”
Marinette huffs, which seems to be her usual response to Chat Noir when she thinks he isn’t watching. “I was fine.”
“You were behind the akuma victim’s car,” he points out, losing some of Chat’s cool veneer. He pulls it back on. “If she’d chosen to move it, you could have been one squashed bug.”
Marinette’s eyes widen for a moment, and she looks into Chat’s face with something like panic. Maybe she has finally realized how dangerous akumas are? But no, because then Marinette puts on a huge smile blinks her big blue eyes at him. “But how could I be hurt with a big hero like you to protect me?”
He fights the conflicting urges to really ham up his preening or to smack his hand into his forehead. He settles for a too wide grin that he hopes is maybe just threatening enough to make Marinette take him seriously. “I am pretty heroic. But as much as I love saving the people of Paris, I like to see them safe more.” Then, to make the message clear, he adds, “Stay away from akumas.”
“Oh, all right. Since it’s Chat Noir telling me.” Marinette flutters her eyelashes. “It won’t happen again.”
But it does. He doesn’t always catch her as Chat, sometimes it’s Adrien that spots her, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t notice. He finds Marinette leaving a bookshop just across the street from where he and Ladybug had taken down an akuma minutes before. She tells him she was looking for flowers for her mother. Two days later he spots her climbing down from a second story balcony directly beneath the akuma victim. He finds her slipping out from behind a dumpster in a sketchy alley. Running up the stairs from the underground. Darting out from behind lampposts. And surely she has no good reason to be in the Bourgeois hotel three times in one week, all after akuma attacks. One time she even tries to run when she meets his eyes. As if she can outrun a superhero.
She seems particularly annoyed that time; she doesn’t even pull out her over-awed fangirl act once. And maybe he is being a bit annoying (he is Chat Noir; it’s his job) but really, this pattern is starting to get worrying. She could get seriously hurt.
Marinette is his classmate. And, although they didn’t talk much, he wants to consider them friends.
He really doesn’t want to see her hurt.
And then Chat is racing across rooftops after an akuma called Bon a Petite who has burst out of a nearby restaurant, shouting about terrible customers and firing scalding hot entrées at passerby shouting, “This hot enough for you! Are you satisfied yet!” Chat isn’t sure, but from what Bon a Petite is yelling, he’s got a feeling that the costumer that set him off was Chloe. Chat has just sent a dish of cherries flambé smashing into the bushes when he spots her: Marinette, crouched behind a fountain. She’s opening her purse, but her eyes are on the akuma, a calculating look on her face. Like she’s preparing for battle.
Chat doesn’t even think. He grabs her around the waist and sends them both flying for the nearest rooftop. Once they are a suitable distance away from the akuma, he sets her down.
“What were you thinking?” he demands. “You can’t fight an akuma!”
“I wasn’t trying to fight the akuma,” Marinette snaps, but it only becomes more obvious to both of them that she’s lying.
“You’ve got to stop,” says Chat. He hasn’t felt this frustrated with someone since his father wouldn’t listen to reason with Simon Says. “Whatever you think you’re doing when you show up around akumas--”
“I have not been showing up around akumas!” retorts Marinette hotly.
“Evillustrator, the Gamer—”
“That’s just chance—”
“Weed Wacker, Stop Light, Waxinator—”
“And that’s not even counting all the times I’ve seen you around just after the akumas have been defeated!”
“That’s—!” Marinette scowls. “Just go fight the stinking akuma, Chat!”
“Not until you’re safe.”
“I can take care of myself!”
“You call this taking care of yourself?” He’s getting angry. There’s an akuma out there. Ladybug hasn’t shown up yet. It’s all on him, and he can’t because of Marinette.
“I was just fine until you came along and interrupted me!”
Chat lets out a growl of wordless frustration. “You were about to jump into the fight. That is not fine!”
“I was not!” shouts Marinette. But Chat is out of patience.
“I saw you! I saw the look on your face. You’re being stupid and reckless!”
“Oh, that’s rich coming from you—”
“Why do you always insist on being near akuma? Why can’t you just wait until Ladybug shows up?”
Marinette splutters at him, apparently frustrated beyond words, before she slams her hands on her hips, her eyes glinting with barely contained fury.
“Because I’m Ladybug, you stupid cat!”
Time seems to stop.
“W-what?” says Chat.
“I’m Ladybug. That’s why you always find me around akuma attacks! So if you would just let me—!” She pops her purse open.
“Tikki, spots on!”
Pink light swirls around Marinette.
“L-Ladybug,” he squeaks.
It really is his Lady. His very irritated Lady.
She puts her hands on her hips. “Do you know how many times Tikki has missed her cookies because you always turn up when my time runs out?”
Ladybug huffs. “That’s what I just said.”
His head is spinning, trying to put all the information together. Everything he knows about Ladybug, every time he’s seen Marinette.
Marinette who is Ladybug.
Marinette helped him with the Evillustrator—she pretended to be so over-awed by his heroics! No wonder Marinette wasn’t impressed! She was Ladybug. She was mocking him.
This is mortifying.
Ladybug throws her yoyo to the next building. Still scowling, she braces for the jump. “You coming, Chat Noir?”
Marinette is Ladybug. Ladybug is Marinette.
Ladybug sits right behind him in class!
Ladybug’s expression softens into something like concern. “Are you all right, Kitty?”
“Yeah – yeah. Just—”
He had thought Marinette was cute. Of course Marinette is cute! She’s Ladybug, the most beautiful woman in the world! How could he not see it?
“You don’t have a problem with it, do you?” says Ladybug, just a hint nervously. “Me being Marinette?”
“What? No! Marinette—you!—are awesome! I just can’t believe I didn’t see it before.” He glances at Ladybug. “How are you not freaking out?”
She smiles a little. “Well, you won’t tell anyone, right? Cat’s honor?”
The trust in her smile pierces him right to the heart. He’s more touched than Chat knows how to express, so he settles for a more exaggerated version of his usual outrageous behavior. He bows deeply, pressing his lips to her hand. “Never,” he vows.
Ladybug just rolls her eyes. “Always dramatic, my kitty.” She nods towards her extended yoyo. “Are you ready to go after the akuma?”
He can freak out about Ladybug’s identity later. Now, they’ve got a job to do. “Yes! Let’s—ah—No, I don’t have a pun this time.”
Ladybug laughs, flicking his bell. “You really are in shock, poor kitty. What do you say? We serve this waiter his just desserts?”
His eyes gleam. “I love you, LB.”
She just laughs as she flies over the rooftops, and he leaps after her.
He had thought to spend the rest of the day freaking out about how he’s going to face Marinette—Ladybug—in school tomorrow, but Hawk Moth has other plans. So here he is, hiding in the corner of the police station, waiting for Plagg to recharge so that he can rush back and help Ladybug fight Rock Candy. His toes tap against the floor as Plagg savors his cheese.
“A bit dry,” complains Plagg. “How am I supposed to get my strength up with subpar cheese?”
“All right, you’re charged enough. Plagg—”
Pieces of rock candy scatter off the shield of Ladybug’s yoyo as she stares at him. He feels Plagg dart into his shirt, which is good because he still hasn’t dropped his hand. Ladybug doesn’t seem to notice, though. She grabs him, smashes through the nearby window, and soon they’re swigging to the roof of the next building.
Ladybug sets him down. “What were you thinking? What were you doing in there? Oh no, are you hurt? The akuma isn’t after you, is she?”
Poor Ladybug actually looks worried. A tower of rock candy bursts through the police station roof, and they both jump.
“Where is that cat?” hisses Ladybug. She turns back to him. “All right, I need to get you to safety, and then—”
Another spire bursts through the roof.
“You take care of the akuma,” he says, trying to smile as easily as he can as Chat Noir. “I’ll be fine on my own.”
“NO!” she shouts, too loud. “I mean, I’m not leaving you. Not until I’ve gotten you to safety.”
Okay, he can see how this would be annoying.
Ladybug’s eyes widen in confusion and just a hint of anger. Oh no, did he say that out loud?
Why, why doesn’t he have a filter around Ladybug? That was supposed to be his problem when he’s Chat, not Adrien too!
“Okay, we need to get you to safety, civilian, before—”
“Actually, I’m not,” he says. And because, really, this is where it’s heading anyway— “Plagg, claws out!”
In retrospect, he probably should have given Ladybug some warning. Like, a lot of warning.
She probably would have still screamed though.