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strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers

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"- a chocolate chip cookie the size of your head, " Rose is saying, excitedly, and Luka hums in acknowledgment even though he'd lost the thread of this conversation several minutes back.  He knows Rose doesn't mind, because Rose plopped herself down next to him while he was tuning his guitar and she only does that if she needs to let herself ramble for a while, but he prefers to try and pay attention anyway. 

He hasn't been succeeding for at least the last half an hour, but thankfully Rose's enthusiasm tends to be self-sustaining.  She knew from the moment she saw him tuning that his attention span isn't at its best right now.

But he doesn't think she knows that it's not Luka's guitar that has him so distracted this time. 

He sees the shadows shift again.

It's dark down by their part of the Seine.  The lights here had all gone dim or out altogether weeks back, and the city's been steadily less diligent about maintaining less-travelled areas ever since Ladybug and Chat Noir's first appearance.  A lot of Luka's friends and his sister's classmates have a running theory that the mayor is quietly hoping one of Ladybug's Miracles will fix all of Paris’ old and broken down infrastructure, saving the city the cost of repairs. 

Luka's lips twitch at the thought even as he focuses more intently on the shadows on the shore.   

Juleka and Rose have never been very happy about that theory.  Neither have most of their classmates.  Nearly all of them tend to get both a little defensive and a little outright possessive of their heroes, and they definitely don't appreciate the thought of the mayor trying to take advantage of their powers like that.   

Luka's not sure if their theory's right or not, although he tends to think it probably is, but he's also pretty sure the sparse and feebly sputtering lighting is Mom's whole reason for docking here.  It's not where they used to set up for the night.

Even with the broken streetlamps, the darkness on the banks is far from absolute. 

And Luka has very good vision. 

There's a darker patch curled up at the base of a tree down by the river's edge.  When that patch shifts, Luka catches a faint glint of light off gold and an even fainter chiming sound.

Luka's been silently watching Chat Noir make himself comfortable for a lot longer than he's been paying enough attention to Rose.  Which maybe isn't fair to Rose, but she'll understand, and Luka's gotten too worried to switch his attention back.   

He'd guessed a while ago that Chat Noir maybe doesn't have the best home life.  Luka's actually talked about it with Carapace before, if only once, and that briefly.  By now they've both been around the other hero enough to start noticing all the tiny tells that begin to add up faster and faster, and Luka's not unfamiliar with those tells. 

Rose has those tells. 

Rose has those tells, and Luka and Juleka have long since admitted to each other they don't actually know exactly when Rose moved in with them.  She'd just... stopped going home, at some point, and they're not sure any of them even realised it at first.  Luka's not even sure Rose realised it at first.    

But they're sure not going to make her go back. 

Luka wonders why Ladybug hasn't made sure that Chat doesn't have to go back. 

He feels guilty for that thought a moment later- he's caught Ladybug's worried looks when Chat makes some off-hand comment he doesn't seem to realise is cause for concern, and he's seen the way Chat clams up if any of them slip and ask him anything directly.  There's something keeping Ladybug from intervening and something keeping Chat Noir from asking for her help.  Luka doesn't know all their reasons, but he trusts that the heroes have their reasons.

Chat Noir shifts again, restless, and Luka sets his guitar gently aside.  He can't keep himself from going to Chat Noir for any longer and he knows it.   

Because Rose had had reasons, too. 

A lot of them hadn't been good reasons.

That's not Rose's fault, because she hadn't known, but while she'd had plenty of reasons a lot of them had not been-

He needs to check on Chat Noir.

Luka's movement draws Rose's attention instantly, her happy chatter trailing off as she blinks at him.  "Luka?"  She draws away from where she'd been leaning more and more heavily into his side.  It always makes tuning harder when she does that, but Luka's had plenty of practise at it.  "What is it?" 

"It's-" He frowns.  He doesn't lie to Rose.  He doesn't generally lie much at all, he's not good at it and this is Rose, but this feels private in a way he can't explain.  "I'm hoping it's nothing."  It's definitely not nothing, but this is something Chat won't talk to Ladybug about.  He's not going to talk to Luka. 

Rose is the only person who knows Luka nearly as well as Juleka does.  He's not surprised when she tilts her head and shuffles away from his side to scan the edge of the river herself.  "No, something's bothering you."

Luka straightens, a little saddened to lose the radiating warmth of his adoptive sister against his side (because Rose is , she's his family too even if they still have to remind her sometimes).  He looks again at Chat Noir. 

Chat's gotten himself hidden better.  He's pressed down against the tree's roots in a way that blocks even the telling gleam of the bell at his throat.  If Luka hadn't already seen him, he's not sure he'd still be able to spot him.

It had been raining heavily earlier.  The dark bank where Chat's tossing and turning and pressing his back to a tree must be more mud than grass.  It certainly can't be comfortable. 

When Luka gets to his feet, Rose flows up after him as if pulled by a string.  She snags his guitar and hands it to him before he can reach for it himself. 

He gives her a grateful smile as he shrugs it on and doesn't comment when she falls into step beside him. 

Sometimes Rose just needs company more than anything else.  Luka gets that.  Usually she goes to his sister, but Juleka's gone to sleep hours ago now, exhausted from a panic attack of her own that probably would have had her akumatised if Rose hadn't been there to so quickly get her to the safety and comfort of the ship. 

That's probably why Rose isn't sleeping tonight.  It's definitely a large part of why Luka isn't. 

Rose hops easily off the ship with a bright grin, ducking under his outstretched arm and moving in close to his side again. 

Rose often needs company and someone to listen to her.  Luka often needs the simple reassurance of touch.  Juleka just needs attention.  Juleka spends a lot of time listening to her girlfriend's chatter, usually with a relaxed smile that lights her whole face, and Mom constantly encourages Rose to talk as much as she wants.  Juleka's developed a habit of stretching to rest her elbow on Luka's shoulder whenever she can get away with it and Mom slings her arm around him in passing and Rose leans up and ruffles his hair whenever she thinks she can get away with it and they all listen for Juleka's quiet voice.  His family is good at catching each other's anxieties early.

But that doesn't mean it isn't nice, when it's just him and Rose. 

Rose has lived with them long enough now that they're familiar with each other's slightest signs, and Rose understands without him having to say anything just how awkward these things are to ask for.  When Luka had gone out to the deck tonight with his guitar in his hands and sought out a spot near the bow, it hadn't been long before Rose had followed him out.  Once she'd dropped down beside him and gotten comfortable, he'd only had to strum a single note and glance over at her before she was off like a shot, words spilling out of her like she'd been saving them up all her life. 

He thinks in a way she might have been. 

Juleka probably does know by now exactly why Rose opted to stay with them, why she never does go home.  Why, as far as Luka knows, no one's ever come looking.  Luka's never asked.  He sees it sometimes, in the way Rose will start to stutter and stop and catch herself halfway through a sentence.  He sees it when she says something she didn't mean to let slip and tries hastily to cover it up. 

He sees it when she talks about Juleka, her eyes happy and bright, and then flinches a second too late like it's something she doesn't think she should have said, even though she has to know by now that she's their family too.  There's nothing she can ever say that would lose her that place. 

From the way Mom sometimes leans against the railing and watches Rose and Juleka with a strange, distant look in her eyes, Luka thinks there'd be one hell of a fight if anyone tried to take Rose from her now.

And Luka's heard Chat Noir do that exact same stutter-stop-start thing.  Luka had looked at him right after and caught Ladybug and Carapace both doing the same, both with distinctly worried looks, and he'd known it wasn't the first time they'd heard it.

He wonders if Chat knows he's doing it.  Rose doesn't, even now. 

Mom won't let Rose go without a fight.  Luka's not sure if Chat knows that even if he hasn't found a family the way Rose has, or at least not just yet, he already has a team that's more than willing to fight for him.  Chat should know that his partner would fight the world for him just as he would for her, but recently Luka's less and less certain that he does. 

Carapace has come to Luka with concerns.  Luka's got to be fairly far down the ladder as far as someone Carapace would bring those concerns to, which means it's likely the whole team knows how worried he is. 

He wonders a lot about what kind of conversation Carapace had had with Ladybug.  Chat's her partner, and Carapace has taken to his role as protector with a little too much heart.  Luka's still watching for the fallout of that conversation because he can't bring himself to believe that they hadn't come up with something.

But right now Chat's out here under a tree. Whatever their plan is, it isn't working yet. 

Rose doesn't ask where they're going or what they're doing.  She's gone silent again, and Luka always hates that, but right now it might be a good thing.  He's not about to sneak up on Chat Noir, even if he thought he could, but he also doesn't know if the hero would stay put if he heard them coming too soon. 

To Luka's surprise, though, Chat doesn't stir until they've made it right up next to him. 

Rose still hasn't asked.  Luka glances sideways at her and sees her staring down at Chat Noir with an unhappy and not-altogether-present expression. 

Luka touches her arm briefly in silent reassurance, then takes a few steps back and crouches down, making himself small.  He doesn't really have to work to keep his voice low and soothing.  He doesn't really ever raise his voice in the first place, a habit he's had good reason to be thankful for more than once.  Rose isn't the only one who's spent time sleeping on their deck.  "Chat Noir?" 

Chat barely stirs, curling inwards on himself as his tail flicks tight around his defensive little ball.  If he were anyone else, Luka would call it a flinch. 

He thinks it is a flinch.  He's just never gotten used to seeing it from Chat Noir.  Even in the heat of battle, Chat's always been more likely to throw himself into danger than he is to flinch from it.

With a quick glance at Rose, who's wrapped her arms around herself and taken a few halting steps back of her own, Luka braces himself and shifts the slightest bit closer.  "Chat?" 

One ear flicks towards him. 

Luka relaxes a little.  Chat can hear him, then.  He's not completely unresponsive. 

Which is good, because Luka doesn't actually have an answer for an unresponsive Chat Noir that isn't 'get Ladybug,' and he's not sure how to contact her short of posting on the very public Ladyblog.  

Settling firmly into a more comfortable position, Luka's careful not to invade Chat's personal space.  Still uncharacteristically quiet, Rose joins them. 

Whatever ends up happening with Chat Noir, Luka's definitely going to have to guard Rose from any hateful little butterflies tonight.  He knows that kind of silence too well.  

Luka doesn't say anything else at first.  He stays silent and thinks carefully, knocking his shoulder against Rose's when her hunched posture catches the corner of his eye, and lets the night settle back in around them before he starts to speak again. 

"We couldn't sleep," Luka says, gently, tilting his head towards Rose briefly. 

Chat's other ear flicks.  His tail twitches, ever so slightly.   

The tiny movements are a disproportionate relief.  Luka's never seen Chat this still.  It's a lot more unnerving than he ever would have guessed.  

Encouraged even if it's only barely a response, Luka continues.  "None of our other friends are awake, or at least the ones that are haven't told us about it." He lets a little laughter creep into his voice, and now Chat Noir's eyes are slitting open. "So we've been out on the deck all night, but Rose was talking about chocolate chip cookies earlier and now I'm really craving them."

Rose shifts.  In a much softer voice than usual, but otherwise thankfully sounding like herself, she corrects, "Chocolate chip cookies the size of your head, you don't know how to make those, Luka." 

He nudges her with his elbow and smiles when she tries to elbow him back.  "No, but we know who does." 

Rose blinks.  More importantly, at least right at the moment, Chat Noir blinks. 

Now that neither of them are looking directly at him, Chat also finally fully raises his head. 

"I dunno if she's awake, it's like..." Rose glances down at her wrist, a habit that has always made Luka curious.  Even if he actually knew anyone else who doesn't just check their phones for the time instead, Rose hasn't worn a watch once since he'd met her.  "... it's late." 

"Rose," Luka says, patiently.  "She's one of the other ones that doesn't, you know, sleep.

Rose laughs, her shoulders finally relaxing.  "That's probably true." 

"It's definitely true.  Go call her," Luka tells her.  "I'll be back in as soon as I can." 

Rose quiets down again, but it's not at all the same way she'd gone silent before.  This time she looks between him and Chat Noir several times like she's trying to tell Luka something, then turns and heads back for the ship much faster than they'd left it. 

Luka is good at hiding it but Chat Noir is starting to really worry him now.  He's never seen the hero this silent or subdued for this long, and honestly if Luka knew any discreet way to contact Ladybug he already would have.

He doesn't, though.  So this is all he has. 

Chat Noir is uncurling more, though he's still not speaking, and Luka doesn't make any attempt to hide his relief.  He doesn't want to leave Chat alone out here, but if he couldn't get a response out of him he'd have started running out options fairly quickly. 

Luka doesn't particularly want to spend the night under this tree himself, but it might have been about to become his only option.

"Wanna come aboard?" Luka holds one hand out to Chat Noir even as he asks.  "The galley's small so we won't all fit, but there's plenty of space on the deck.  Rose and Juleka and I all sleep out there, sometimes."  His hair falls across his face as he tilts his head, but he doesn't brush it back.  He needs one hand for balance and he's not about to withdraw the other.  "You're always welcome to join us, actually, you wouldn't be the only one.  Mom's never cared.  I think she kinda enjoys finding extra people out there." 

Mom's come out to find extra people on their deck more than once.  In the past it had been Ivan with some frequency, and at one point Rose had brought her friend Nino with for almost a week straight- Luka's never asked about that, either- and Luka had only ever met Nath when he'd literally tripped over him.  Mom's only reaction has been to try and figure out how to feed everyone. 

(Luka actually has two different part-time jobs, because Mom is good at finding ways to stretch to feed a surprising number of people, but he'd snuck a look at their finances once and immediately realised just how close she cuts it.  He tells her he's saving up for a new guitar.  He thinks she believes him.  Maybe).   

Chat's voice, when he finally answers, is hoarse and faint.  "You sure?" 

"Yeah, I'm sure.  Wouldn't say it if I wasn't.  C'mon?"  Luka keeps himself as still as possible, only moving when Chat reaches for his hand.  

They end up pulling each other to their feet. Luka loses his balance slightly and Chat Noir catches him, then lets go as if burned, and Luka feels his eyebrows fly up.  He's lucky Chat's not looking at him. 

He's never known Chat Noir to be touch-averse.  Usually he's exactly the opposite. 

Chat Noir's just as muddy as Luka had expected, but the hero doesn't seem bothered.  Luka understands why when Chat takes two steps and shakes and the mud slides and scatters off his suit.  In moments it looks as though he'd never been curled up in the mud against a bottom of a tree at all. 

Luka's heart does something very unhappy and deeply unpleasant at the lingering image of Chat curled up defensively in the mud, pressed close against a tree and barely responding.  Luka knows better than to ask Chat outright what happened, but that doesn't do anything for the desire to know that itches beneath his skin.  The desire to do something to make it better , somehow, is even stronger.  

He feels a sudden sympathy for Carapace, who takes his position as protector seriously in a way that scares the rest of them because they very much do not need a second self-sacrificing teammate. They have enough trouble trying and failing to break Chat Noir of that habit.

By the time the two of them make it to the ship, Rose has reappeared, backlit by soft light from below deck.  Behind her, yawning and running a hand through her sleep-ruffled hair, Juleka half-lifts her free hand in a lazy wave. 

Luka fights back a grin.  Juleka's probably going to be annoyed at him and Rose later for letting her greet Chat Noir in her pyjamas, but she always takes about an hour to fully wake up.  She's not going to care about it for a while yet. 

And Luka doesn't know how to describe Chat's expression when he sees the pyjamas so clearly themed after him, but it's definitely not a bad expression. 

Rose and Juleka vanish again once they've greeted them, probably to go change or to see if Rose has gotten a response.

Chat Noir is surprisingly slow to follow Luka belowdecks.  The galley is too small to fit many people into comfortably anyway, but Luka's genuinely surprised when Chat freezes up at the door to his room. 

Luka looks between his room and Chat Noir, mystified, but shrugs inwardly before turning back towards the main cabin.  The heroes have seen a lot.  Luka doesn't know what's making Chat look like that any more than he knows what Chat was doing outside in the first place, but he doesn't have to know his reasons in order to respect them. 

It isn't that Luka doesn't like or want to know things.  It's that he understands and respects the need to keep some things private.  He doesn't really understand why so many other people don't seem to understand that concept.

Chat Noir's clearly more comfortable in the main cabin. 

He also doesn't seem to know what to do with himself. 

He's still more quiet than Luka's ever seen him.  Luka can't figure out if there's anything he can do about that, or even if there's anything he should do about that.  He thinks it might be something he has to let the hero come out of on his own. 

They're both still standing in the middle of the room, Chat uncertain and Luka undecided, when another set of footfalls comes clattering down the stairs. 

"Guys?" the newcomer calls, voice still a little thick with sleep, and Luka hides a grin at the way Chat's ears perk up and swivel towards the stairs.  "I'm here, I brought what you asked for." 

Coming into view at the bottom of the stairs, covering a yawn as she stops, Marinette adds, "You said it was a cookie emergency, what happen- Chat ?" 

Her eyes have gone very wide. 

Luka hides another grin.  "We, ah, picked up another stray." 

He's sure Rose is out of earshot when he says that.  He's sure of it. 

She still appears from around a corner and heaves a pillow at him with unnerving accuracy. 

Distracted, Luka doesn't immediately register the way Marinette had reacted to his joking comment by making a beeline for Chat Noir.  She reaches down to take both his hands and he lets her, relaxing in her presence in a way he hadn't around Rose and Luka. 

Luka's sure the surprise he sees mirrored in Rose's expression is clear on his face in that moment, but it's well-hidden again by the time they turn back to him. 

(Rose's isn't.  Luckily, they're not looking at Rose). 

Luka doesn't bother to keep his eyes from flickering to Chat as he says, "We can't all fit in the galley at the same time, but we can shout back and forth all we want." 

"Won't we wake the rest of your family?"  Chat, at least, is starting to sound more like himself.  He's starting to look more like himself, his ears now up and twitching more than they're down and his tail curled up high instead of drooping.

"Juleka's up, like, actually up now," Rose reports when Luka looks at her, snapping off a salute like she had when she'd first started living out of their spare room. (She hadn't stayed in the spare room real long.  Luka had helped his sister make space in her own room for Rose before anyone had even really realised she was staying for good now, including Rose).

Chat glances between them like he's not sure if he's meant to salute, too. 

Luka has never learned why on earth Rose even has that habit, so he just.  Decides not to address it.  "Mom sleeps like the dead, Chat, but she wouldn't care even if we did wake her."  He shrugs, leaning against the wall and trying not to be too obvious as he takes in the way Marinette is so clearly checking Chat over for signs of injury.  Chat lets her, showing no signs of pulling away or shutting down. 

Not that Luka had ever thought before tonight that Chat Noir was likely to shut down in response to- to anything, really, but something had clearly caused him to earlier.

Marinette doesn't let go of Chat until she seems to have satisfied herself that he's not visibly hurt anywhere.  Rose doesn't interrupt any more than Luka had, and when Juleka joins them again she takes only one look before stepping away to hang back in the doorway. 

Marinette says something too low to hear and Chat's ears flicker down, then up again as he says something back. 

Luka looks to Rose first, because he more than suspects that she's recognising more in Chat's behaviour than he's seeing, but Rose isn't looking back at him.  She's staring at a fixed point just beside Chat instead, biting her lip. 

Luka winces internally.  It makes sense that this might be dredging up some less-than-ideal memories for Rose. 

He looks to Juleka instead, who is looking steadily back at him. 

Juleka's eyes flick between Chat and Rose.  She raises an eyebrow. 

Luka's shoulder lifts in a half shrug before he inclines his head, just barely. 

Juleka's eyes narrow before she steps fully into the room, stopping beside Rose and wrapping an arm around her.  Her voice is a lot less monotone than usual.  "Didn't know we were having a party." 

Chat Noir and Marinette both jolt, pulling away from each other, and Marinette dives for the bag of supplies she'd dropped on the floor as soon as she'd seen Chat.

"We're having a chocolate chip cookie kinda night," Rose chirps, leaning her head back to grin up at her girlfriend, and Luka relaxes a bit more because he knows how much Rose will have communicated to Juleka with just those words and that gesture alone. 

It's not quite the same, after that, as the kinds of nights Luka usually spends up with Rose and sometimes Juleka. 

It's not even the same as the nights he told Chat about where they end up with extra people sleeping on their deck.  As skittish and silent as Chat is acting, Luka's not going to invite any more people.  He won't turn anyone away if they do show up, but he thinks this might already be the right amount of people for Chat Noir for right now.   

The galley is too small to fit more than one person comfortably, or to fit more than two people at all, and Marinette chases most of the rest of them gently away within the first five minutes. 

"Luka can stay," she declares, finally, after a giggling Rose ducks out of the galley for a third time.  "Luka can stay because he doesn't keep trying to steal all the chocolate chips, Rose, come on." 

"Wait, what did I do? What did Juleka do?" Chat Noir asks, though from the way his tail is lashing he doesn't actually want to be in the galley anyway. 

"Juleka knows what she did," Marinette calls back, and Luka takes pity on the bewildered look Chat shoots him. 

"Juleka's an enabler," Luka explains, eyeing the batter himself and wondering if they're even going to be able to make this work.  Marinette's made a lot, he's not so sure she realises the tiny galley on the Liberty doesn't have anything like the kind of ovens she's used to.  He's not even sure where she got a bowl that size.  He's not sure she didn't bring it with her.  "Juleka keeps sneaking chocolate chips off to Rose."  Also to Chat Noir himself, but either Marinette hasn't caught him or has decided he's allowed, Luka's honestly not sure which.

They have to bake the cookies one at a time, but it's not like any of them were sleeping anyway.  (Except for Juleka, but he's pretty sure she'd shove him overboard if she knew he'd let her sleep through this, so that's all right).  The cookies are huge, taking up a whole baking sheet each, and though they all insist Chat Noir take the first one it's not long before they've got it on the coffee table and are all splitting it like a pizza. 

"This is so good," Chat Noir says, eyes glittering as he reaches for another piece.  He's doing the thing Rose does where his eyes flit over everyone else's plates before taking a smaller piece than anyone else. 

Luka tries to catch Juleka's eye at that and ends up catching Marinette's attention instead. 

She locks gazes with him, then breaks off a much larger piece of cookie and slides it onto Chat's plate without looking.  Chat Noir doesn't say anything but does pause for a moment. 

"We should try adding toppings to the next ones."  Marinette frowns down at the cookie, like it's at fault for none of them having thought of that before.  "I didn't bring anything else, though." 

Luka runs through a budget in his head.  It's something he's gotten a lot of practise at.  "We have some Oreos, I think?" 

"We're gonna add more cookies to a cookie?"  Chat Noir looks bemused. 

Rose puts another piece of cookie in front of him. 

They do end up adding more cookies.  They also end up adding M & Ms, Skittles because Juleka thinks the element of surprise will be fun (it kinda is but no one wants to admit it), and at one point Lucky Charms because Rose is actually a monster.

None of them realise it's morning until Mom comes into the room, yawning. 

Chat freezes as soon as he registers her presence.

Mom takes one look at them all and rolls her eyes.  "I'll go call you all in sick, but you kids are gonna owe me a share of that breakfast." 

"It's Sunday, " Juleka calls after her retreating back. 

"You homeschool me!" Luka shouts after her. 

"How would you even call Chat in sick-" Marinette pauses, a strange look passing over her face, and Luka tries not to snicker at how obviously she's just pictured Mom casually telling the school that Chat Noir is out sick today. 

She would.

They should probably make sure she doesn't, that feels like Hawkmoth bait honestly, but she absolutely would. 

"Chat and Marinette don't live here," Rose chimes in, snagging another bite of the latest cookie and cracking it in half.  She gives half of it to Chat, who's blinking at her.

At his quizzical look, Rose shrugs.  "What? I do live here." 

"She wandered in and we asked if we could keep her," Juleka says dryly, though she's wrapping an arm around Rose and leaning against her as she says it, reminding her they're only joking.  Rose knows by now that they want her here, but that doesn't mean she doesn't need reminded, sometimes.  "Mom said yes." 

"She's lying," Luka tells Chat's strange expression.  "There was no asking involved."

"Ours now," Juleka adds, squeezing Rose tighter. 

From somewhere outside of the room, Mom shouts, "Finders keepers!" 

Luka comes within seconds of telling Chat Noir if he wants adopted all he has to do is hang around long enough, but there's a look in Chat's eyes that stops him.  There's a different, more pained look in Marinette's eyes that tells him more than he really wants to know. 

Rose starts to yawn.  Moments later, so does Chat, and it doesn't take long for Marinette to follow.

"If you want, that offer to go crash on the deck for a while is still open," Luka offers, cautiously.   

They definitely start out in a lazy sprawl all across the deck, each of them taking plenty of space for themselves.  Chat Noir instantly finds the widest, warmest strip of dawning light to spread out in with a deep sigh, because of course he does.  The point is they are definitely all in their own separate spots out on the deck. 

For about ten minutes. 

Luka's not surprised that Juleka and Rose have rolled closer to each other.  He's not even all that surprised that Chat and Marinette did the same (though he's sure trying to be). 

He is surprised to find Chat Noir curled into his side, Marinette's head pillowed on Chat's side, one of her arms thrown over them both.

He's surprised, but he's definitely not complaining. 

Chat Noir comes back the next night. 

And then the night after.

And then Chat Noir starts to come by most nights. 

Luka's getting a lot more worried. 

He's so thankful the next time Ladybug shows up with Sass, because he's able to catch her off to the side after the battle and quietly ask her if she knows what's up with her partner. 

Ladybug's lips twist in an expression Luka tries hard not to find familiar. 

"I suspect, but I don't know," Ladybug tells him quietly, after scanning around to make sure there's no cat-eared shadows to overhear.  "We don't discuss our civilian lives, really.  There's too much risk to our identities. " 

Luka blinks.  He's always assumed that they do know each other's identities.  As close as the two of them are, it's never occurred to him that they might not.

He doesn't say anything about that.  That's something he thinks is between the two of them and their kwami. 

(But he can't help judging, a little.  They should know.  She might have been able to help him, if they knew). 

"I doubt he'd tell you any real details anyway."  Luka exhales, hard, but this isn't a secret.  This hasn't been a secret in a long, long time.  "Rose never did." 

Ladybug's expression is pained, but not surprised. 

Luka hesitates, because he doesn't know if Chat Noir has told his partner that he's been all but staying on the Liberty, but the look on her face decides him.  She does deserve to know he's safe, at least part of the time.  As safe as Luka and his family can keep him, anyway.  "He's been sleeping on the Liberty.  I think he's been sleeping on the deck even on some of the nights I don't see him."

Ladybug presses the heel of one hand hard against her eyes.  When she takes it away, her gaze locks onto Luka in a way that makes him suddenly very aware that he's alone in a dark alley with her. 

It's... not the most comfortable feeling.

He reminds himself that he knows very well that none of that restrained fear and fury is directed at him.  

It does not help. 

"Thank you for letting me know he's safe," Ladybug says, far more stiff and polite than he's ever heard her before. 

"He would go to you," Luka says, before he knows he's going to say it.  "Rose came to Juleka.  He would go to you." 

"It's not sa-" Ladybug starts, and then stops.  Her shoulders hunch. 

"He's not safe now," Luka points out, voice quiet.  The words still fall heavily into the space between them, lingering long after they're said, but Luka doesn't regret them.  He can't.  "You know he'd never share it with anyone else.  You know your identities would be safest with each other." 

"We can't know-"  Ladybug's voice breaks as she turns away from him.  Much quieter, she repeats, "We can't know."  

Luka eyes Sass from the corner of his eye, but Sass' minute head shake tells him very little. 

But it's hard to miss the way Ladybug looks at her partner.  The way he looks back at her.  There's a melody in all their movements, a song that threads through them both, ensnaring one and then the other. If Ladybug hasn't told Chat who she is, then she genuinely doesn't think it's safe.

But Chat's not safe.  Luka remembers the early days of Rose staying with them.  He remembers how hard they'd wished that she'd come to them sooner, or that they'd gone to her.

"You should know," Luka says, even quieter than before.  "If you don't get him out now, you'll regret it forever." 

Ladybug looks like he's stabbed her.

"I'll think about it," she finally says, one hand raising to her earrings as she closes her eyes and draws in a breath.  When she opens her eyes again, determination has lit her face and transformed her features.  "I might be able to do something else, first. But you- you might be right."

Luka nods, mind already straying to other options if Ladybug really can't break this rule.  From the way she'd touched her earrings, he doesn't think it's her choice alone.

From the way she watches her partner, the way she goes tense when he says something without thinking that hints at something deeper having gone wrong, he's not sure it's her choice at all.

He doesn't push.  In his experience, pushing rarely helps.  Instead he reaches back to rest one hand on his guitar as he thinks.

There are a lot of people on the Liberty now.  Luka's already working two jobs, and he's seen the way Mom's face goes tight and worried when she checks the pantry and makes her grocery lists.  Chat Noir has seen it, too, he thinks, because Chat almost never accepts food even when he's clearly hungry.  The few times Rose has tried hard to get him to take it anyway it ends up back on her or Juleka's plate when they aren't looking. 

There are a lot of people on the Liberty now.  More than they can really afford to have aboard. 

Luka still doesn't hesitate to say, "You can come aboard anytime, too, you know." 

Ladybug doesn't answer him beyond an absent nod, before she vanishes into the night with the Snake Miraculous.  

But she shows up to the Liberty three nights later, moving more warily than he's ever seen from her and carrying a very deliberately nondescript bag over one shoulder.

"I, uh."  She doesn't look at anyone, and it's almost as weird to see her confidence falter as it was to find Chat under that tree.  Almost.  "I brought food." 

She brought more than food. 

She did bring food, and she brought more than enough for all of them.  She brought enough to stock their pantry, and though he tries not to let anything show Luka feels a tension he hadn't known he was carrying seep out of his shoulders.

Ladybug brought plenty of food.  Ladybug also brought board games. And card decks. And a massive fluffy blanket that Chat and Rose get into an immediate play fight over, and flour, and eggs, and sugar, and chocolate chips and even Lucky Charms-

Luka looks at the ingredients, spread out over the half of their low coffee table that's not already occupied by an in-progress game of Pictionary.

Luka is on Rose's team, because Rose and Juleka are not allowed to team up anymore, and neither are Juleka and Luka, and after a single terrifying game neither are Chat and RoseNo one had had the heart to tell Chat and Ladybug they couldn't be a team, though, so the rest of them are losing solidly.  Juleka, who's opted to referee as the odd one out, has spent most of the game snickering into a throw pillow.

Ladybug has spent most of the game darting back and forth from the galley, insisting on being the one to do any actual baking.  This has done nothing to prevent her and Chat absolutely curb-stomping the rest of them.

Luka looks at Ladybug, and then at Chat Noir, and thinks that while they may not be willing to tell each other their identities strong hints are apparently not off the table. 

That or they're painfully oblivious. 

(She makes giant rainbow cookies with them all this time.  She bans Rose from the galley pre-emptively).

(They absolutely are painfully oblivious).