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Chat Noir always enjoyed visiting the Dupain-Cheng household. He and Tom wold have pun offs and Sabine would hold long conversations with him in Mandarin- all of which would infuriate their daughter. Sabine showed him how to use his baton as a baton, greatly expanding his arsenal of moves in battle. He was welcomed and fed and cared for there, even after he dropped the cocky facade he carried with Chat Noir (or used it less like a mask and more of a legitimate personality trait).

But it was Marinette that was a breath of fresh air to him, a simple drowning cat. Her wit was as quick as Ladybug's (around Chat, anyways), her bravery surmounting even his, and her heart the kindest he had ever known. He loved to see her red cheeks when he messed with her about her very flattering Adrien Agreste wall collage, or when her mother and he would tease her in Mandarin over her head, or when he would hold her down so she couldn't fight back when Tom would tickle her.

He loved her hair- up down, bed head, freshly washed, whatever. But Chat liked it best whenever it was in her face and he could reach over and brush it out of the way of her bright blue eyes. Her cheeks would flush and she would tackle him soon after, because of course Chat would take the opportunity to tease her.

Chat Noir had somehow integrated himself into the lives of the Dupain-Chengs, and they had allowed him to. He was hugged and his hair was ruffled, and Marinette would curl up against his side on Friday movie nights and grin, allowing him to bundle her up in his arms and the blanket, only to wake in the morning with the blanket readjusted over himself and Marinette by Tom and Sabine. Marinette's head would be tucked beneath his chin, her hair free from their pigtails and splayed everywhere, and, with her lips parted just so, she would be exhaling what was probably the worst case of morning breath in the entire world. He didn't mind. Chat would simply get up without waking her and pad into the kitchen to help Sabine cook breakfast.

The defining moment for him, however, was when Alya had been over once (she had been sworn to secrecy about the hero hanging out at their house, and had agreed on the condition that he get her an interview with Ladybug. Chat thought it was rather easy to get media-shy Ladybug to agree, but he didn't dwell on it). She had been brandishing a camera and, while Chat Noir and the Dupain-Cheng's were wresting over the two game controllers in the household, had snapped a shot of the scene. His heart swelled with such utter happiness when Sabine had practically demanded he be the one to hang the framed photo on the wall with other family pictures. He belonged somewhere, and that wall proved it.

Their home had become his, and Chat Noir protected what's his.

Especially in such moments when it was specifically targeted by an akuma.

"Get away from them!" Chat Noir batted away another serving plate thrown by Le Traiteur, former head of a catering company who had overheard a remark from newlywed couple that they would rather just eat the cake than the meal they paid to have served. Naturally, the akuma victim set out to destroy the competition, starting with those he felt had insulted him by existing.

Chat Noir had managed to see Tom and Sabine out of the Patisserie, but had been too late for the last member of the household. By the time Chat arrived back at the scene with his heart hammering in his throat, Le Traiteur had already managed to get a firm grasp on little Marinette, who struggled valiantly against the napkins that tied her limbs firmly together to no avail.

Chat was furious. And missing Ladybug, but that was beside the point because he was absolutely incensed that an akuma would dare to attack his home. He slid beneath another serving tray, an unfamiliar seriousness settling in his bones. The akuma seemed to have a different mode of operation than usual- for one, taking a young girl hostage and holding her at knife point.

Marinette's gaze locked on his, wide with fear and calm, desperation and trust. She trusted Chat Noir to free her, even as the akuma pressed the sharp blade of the knife to her pale throat. Chat snarled, searching for any possible way to defeat the akuma without risking Marinette any further.

His planning came to nothing. He couldn't find anything, even when taking Cataclysm into account. He couldn't find anything and Marinette was going to get hurt and where the hell was Ladybug when he needed her?!

So when the akuma held out his hand with the offer- his Miraculous for Marinette- he froze, his left hand rising to automatically cover his ring.

"Isn't this girl worth your identity and powers, Chat Noir?" Le Traiteur grinned, hoisting Marinette more upright. The girl gagged as she craned her head back in an attempt to avoid the knife. "Or am I mistaken in assuming these people mean so much to you?"

Chat snarled, hackles rising. If it were just him at stake, he would give the Miraculous Stones over in a heartbeat, but he couldn't give up Plagg, the only one who truly understood him, like that. Plus, Marinette was giving him a look that clearly said don't even consider it you stupid cat but... Chat growled in the back of his throat. What else was there to do? Ladybug was missing, and Marinette- his breath hitched as Le Traiteur slowly began pressing the knife into her throat. Marinette cried out as a thin line of blood began slipping down her throat, pain and fear streaking through her eyes. Tears finally began tracking their way down her face. Le Traiteur smirked, triumph in his gaze.

"Stop!" Chat jerked in place, his hammering heart jumping into his throat. His chest heaved as he threw out his hand, tears brimming in his eyes. "I'll give it to you, I promise, just stop hurting her, please!"

I'm so sorry, Plagg. I'm so... so sorry. The wave of resigned understanding that splashed through his mind twisted the guilt in his gut further. I'll find a way to save you both, I swear.

Le Traiteur grinned easily, shifting his grip to nudge a baleful Marinette forward in front of him as he edged towards the distressed miraculous wielder, whose shoulders slumped in defeat. The akuma idly took Chat's limp hand in his own free one and held it up, humming. "There, that wasn't so hard, now was-"

"Get your hands off of my children this instant!"

Tom Dupain, having managed to sneak his bulky frame up behind Le Traiteur when he was distracted, reached around the akuma to wrench the arm holding the knife to Marinette's bared neck away as, at the same time, a smart strike from a well worn bo staff wielded by Sabine, sent the akuma's outstretched hand flying away from Chat Noir's. Marinette gasped in relief as Chat immediately sent an uppercut under the akuma's jaw before scooping up Marinette and, after receiving firm nods from two very determined parents, raced away to get the sobbing girl to safety.

Did he want to leave them? No, but he had learned recently that there was nothing quite like a parent's drive to protect their children to get things done.

Once they reached a place that he determined safe, Chat quickly shredded the napkins that had bound Marinette's wrists and ankles together before turning his attention to her throat. He was halted in his inspection by her arms wrapping tightly around his neck in a tight hug, her breath bursting rapidly- way too rapidly- across his skin. Chat froze when he felt her body shaking against his before pulling her even closer against him. She was mumbling under her breath about her own idiocy, about Marinette not being as good as her, something about transforming- which he refused to think further on at the moment because that thought sent a whole new level of fear spiking through him. Chat just held her and murmured soothingly as long as he dared to, Tom and Sabine weighing heavily on his mind.

Marinette seemed to think the same, gathering her wits about her rather quickly. Her pupils were still blown and her skin was pale and clammy, but she was no longer hyperventilating. They slowly released each other and Chat prepared to go back after Le Traiteur. After a brief argument over whether it was okay to leave Marinette by herself, Chat ended up leaving the girl to her own devices in their hideaway so he could return to the scene.

When he reappeared, he was impressed to see the Dupain-Cheng's holding their own against the akuma- who seemed to have various pies and cakes splattered over his head at this point. Chat nodded at them as he launched into battle, grinning menacingly at the akuma as the adults stepped back to safety.

"You're going to regret messing with this family," Chat promised, throwing his hand up in the air. "Cataclysm!"

"Lucky Charm!"

Chat whirled on Ladybug in an instant, a sharp comment about showing up in the "nick of time", after Marinette was almost killed and after Chat almost gave up his Miraculous- but then stopped short, easily noting his partner's puffy eyes and the cut that steadily dripped blood down her neck. His eyes widened as Ladybug caught the Charm- a transparent, ladybug spotted icing bag- and he swallowed reflexively, nearly choking on air.

"M-Marin-?!"

"Focus, Chat!"

Right.

In the end, the akuma is almost stupid easy to take down once the red spotted hero is there to complete the duo- one strategically placed Charm, a Cataclysm, and a purifying ritual later, and everything was back to normal. Ladybug was quick to take off, rubbing at the newly healed cut on her neck. Chat stood, stunned for a moment before quickly following after her- for she had begun running in the direction of Marinette's hiding place.

The girl was there when he arrived, hunkered in a corner and face still blotchy and puffy and still rubbing at her throat. Chat hastily checked the wound- yep, healed, like he knew it would be, but it was still a huge relief to see the cut closed up into a faint scar- before scooping Marinette up, eager to get her home to her family.

As soon as he approached the front door, it was thrown open by Tom, who wasted no time in dragging both teenagers in to safety. Chat set Marinette down and Sabine was on them instantly, wrapping her arms tightly around both of them. Tom was quick to circle everyone in his large, strong hold and Marinette was clinging to Chat Noir tightly and it was then that Chat realized he was crying, because for the first time in his entire memory he was in the center of a family group hug, one of relief and warmth and love.

He didn't make an effort to move as his Miraculous beeped out a final warning before his suit dissolved in an array of green, leaving him as No One Spectacular To Anyone Adrien Agreste. No one, not even Marinette, even batted an eye, only hugged him tighter.

"Welcome home, son," Tom grinned at him, and Adrien couldn't help but break into more broken sobs. Sabine held him gently and Marinette simply curled up in to his side, like on the movie nights they had every Friday. The warmth seeped into his body and overflowed into a brilliant grin as he basked in the love willingly given to him, and he laughed through his tears. "Welcome home."

Home.

He had a home.