Chapter 1: I Need a Hero
Marinette's day could have been going better. Presently she found herself in the hairy grip of an enormous gorilla, which may or may not have been Adrien's bodyguard, who she may or may not have tripped in front of and accidentally shoved into his employer's car, creating a large butt-shaped dent on the hood. Of all the reasons to be akumatized. Of all the ways to cause someone to be akumatized.
She knew she was expected to kick and scream and demand to be put down, but honestly? The damsel in distress thing wasn't her scene. And the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower was so nice that evening. If the police would just stop aiming that spotlight directly at—
Ah, there was Chat Noir. Marinette removed the boredom from her face and shrieked at the top of her lungs. "Let go of me, you beast!"
Wrong thing to say. The Gorilla let out a deep, growling chuckle and opened his hand.
Marinette was too shocked to scream. Gravity pulled her down, faster by the second, air rushing past. She reached for a yo-yo that wasn't there.
A body slammed into hers. Everything changed direction. One arm slipped around her waist, then she felt an impact and all motion ceased. She opened her eyes—when had she closed them?—and found herself on the Eiffel Tower's observation deck, her arms and legs wrapped tightly around Chat Noir.
"Uh… good evening, Princess?"
Marinette scrambled off of him. "Hey." She cleared her throat. "Thanks for, y'know, that."
Chat rubbed the back of his neck. "N-No problem. Say, isn't that gorilla up there Adrien Agreste's bodyguard?"
"Yeah! I might have gotten him into trouble today. Total accident." Now hurry up and leave so I can transform, she thought with a grimace.
The familiar confident grin surfaced on Chat Noir's face. "Right. You take the stairs down to safety. Ladybug and I will handle this mess," he said before leaping onto a beam and climbing out of sight.
Marinette ducked into the shadows to steady her breathing. That was too close. Falling out of the sky as herself was a lot less thrilling than doing it as Ladybug. But she could think about that later. Right now, she had a job to do.
Chapter 2: The Start of Something New
MariChat May Day 31: Kidnapped
Marinette heard a tap on her skylight. Thinking it was a pigeon, she wheeled her desk chair over and looked up. Chat Noir waved down at her. "Oh God, what does he want now?" she hissed.
"You know he likes to check up on people after an akuma attack," Tikki said from her hiding place among Marinette's stuffed animals.
"Please, it's bad enough my parents invited him over for desserts to thank him for saving my life." Marinette rolled her eyes, but it hadn't been that bad. Chat was polite the whole time, and seemed to genuinely enjoy both the food and the company. She climbed the ladder to the loft, stood on her bed, and pushed the skylight open.
Chat poked his head into the room. "Bonjour, Marinette."
"My, if it isn't Chat Noir! I must be the luckiest girl in Paris!" she cried, silently thanking her years of swooning over Adrien for her fan girl experience.
Chat's smile widened. "You're about to be even luckier. Got a few minutes?"
"Eh, I'm a little busy…"
"It won't take long, I promise." He held his hand out to her.
Marinette made a show of reluctance; he was her partner, after all. She couldn't let the lines of their identities blur. Mistakes were bound to be made. But she had to admit she was curious. She put her hand in his and allowed him to help her up onto the balcony. "So why am I luck-yyyy?!" Her question ended in a scream as he scooped her up and leapt from the balcony. "Chat Noir!"
"Hold on, Princess!" he said. It wasn't like she had any other choice.
She put a hand around his neck and allowed herself to be carried halfway across Paris. When he finally put her down, she turned to scold him and earned a clawed finger over her lips. She blinked. He pointed below.
Gabriel Agreste stood supervising an outdoor photo shoot for a collection Marinette had never seen before. Tall and beautiful models in sumptuous designs draped themselves over props—and each other—as the photographer barked orders and Monsieur Agreste made on the spot adjustments to the outfits.
Marinette's jaw hung open. Chat leaned over and whispered, "A small thanks for the desserts the other day."
"Small?" she squeaked. He shrugged as if he hadn't read her like an open book. Marinette shook her head and tweaked one of his costume ears. "You're too much, chaton."
Later it occurred to her that the nickname might have given her identity away. But the next time Chat came to visit, he was none the wiser.
And the next time. And the time after that. And the time after that…
Chapter 3: Got Your Back
MariChat May Day 24: Without the Mask
"Maman, do we have Camembert by any chance?" Marinette rooted through the refrigerator, shoving milk and produce aside to search the very backs of the shelves.
"Hmm… we have brie, I think," Sabine said from the couch where she sat watching a movie with Tom.
Marinette closed the refrigerator. "That's no good."
"Does it have to be Camembert?" Tom asked.
"Yes." She grabbed the sides of the ladder leading up to her bedroom. On the way up, she heard her father speak in a questioning tone, and her mother answer with something about her time of the month. Easier than the truth, she thought.
Once in her bedroom, she closed and locked the hatch door. "It's me, chaton."
Chat's voice drifted down from the loft. "Any luck with the cheese?"
"How does Plagg feel about brie?" she asked. A disgusted groan from Plagg was all the answer she needed. Marinette rolled her eyes. "Can't you make an exception?"
Plagg appeared at the edge of the loft. "Can't you go to the market?" He shot back. A hand bearing a silver ring whipped out and cuffed him. "Hey!"
"Don't be rude to Marinette. We've inconvenienced her enough as it is."
Marinette sighed. She'd been studying at Alya's house when the akuma attacked. Chat had barely made it out of the fight before his transformation wore off, but she hadn't known—until she arrived home an hour later and a "psst!" from above scared the living daylights out of her—that he'd chosen to hide in her bedroom. She could imagine him tumbling through the skylight and landing on her bed before turning back into whoever he was.
"It's no inconvenience, Chat," she said. He snorted. "Okay, it's a bit of an inconvenience." She climbed the loft ladder and sat on a step near the top, facing away from the bed. She heard Chat shift. "But it's not like you had anywhere else to go."
Plagg darted in front of her. Marinette put a finger over his mouth before he could complain. "For the record," she said, "if you two ever need a safe place to transform back, you can come here. Just warn me, okay?"
"How do I go about that?" Chat's voice was right next to her ear. Marinette flailed in surprise and almost hit him in the face, but managed to control both her limbs and her desire to turn around and yell at him.
"There's a notebook and pen in one of those shelves above my bed. Can you hand it to me?"
More shuffling. Plagg landed on her knee and tried not to pout. A moment later a notebook slid over her shoulder, along with a pen. She ripped a corner off a page and wrote her phone number down. "Here," she said, holding it behind her. The scrap left her hand. "For emergencies only, got it?"
"What's that, Princess? You want me to call at all hours of the day?" The grin in Chat's voice almost convinced her to turn just so she could smack him.
"Yup. I hear you loud and clear." Then, to her surprise, his arm slid around her shoulders in a quick, tentative embrace. "Thank you, Marinette. You don't know how much this means to me."
And Marinette, who'd had enough close calls of her own and knew exactly what it meant, laid her hand on his bare wrist. "You're welcome."
Chapter 4: Consider This
MariChat May Day 19: Eavesdropping
Sometimes Chat liked to nap on Marinette's roof. The scents from the bakery and the flowers on her balcony mingled together to form the most pleasant, relaxing aroma. He always had sweet dreams up there.
One afternoon he was woken from a light doze by voices. He cracked an eye open and peered down. Marinette and Alya were on the balcony, animatedly discussing something that had happened in class. House calls aside he hadn't seen much of either of them since they started high school. It was almost nostalgic: Marinette flailing her arms in the air, Alya shaking her head at her.
Alya put her hands on her hips. "Hey," she said, "so I know you and Chat Noir are friends—which is still incredibly awesome, by the way—but is there something else going on?"
"Something else?" Marinette's entire body recoiled as if the very idea of it offended her. "Alya, please."
"Of course nothing's going on. Chat's in love with Ladybug. The whole world knows that."
Chat flipped onto his stomach, his tail swishing from side to side. Marinette picked up a watering can and tilted it over the flower box. "He's good company when he's not being a pest," she said, to which Chat stuck out his bottom lip. "And he's an excellent math and science tutor. Go figure."
"What if he's a total nerd out of costume?" Alya asked, then gasped. "What if he's Max?"
"Max has been akumatized," Marinette pointed out.
"You're no fun," Alya complained. "Let me have my crack theories!" The two burst into laughter. From his perch, Chat grinned; he really had missed them. Alya walked over and threw an arm around Marinette's shoulder. "But let's say you did end up dating Chat Noir."
"How would that even work?"
"Oh my God, we are not having this conversation." Marinette put down the watering can and marched over to the trap door with Alya on her heels. Their voices faded as they climbed back into the bedroom below.
Chat rolled onto his back again, folding his hands behind his head. "Dating Marinette, huh?" he mumbled to the afternoon sky.
Chapter 5: Grapes and Gargoyles
MariChat May Day 20: 3AM Talks
Chat didn't always stay late, and he most certainly never stayed over. But on this particular Saturday Marinette couldn't bear to send him home. Not when, after long silences and wan smiles, he'd confessed that it was the anniversary of the day his mother had disappeared. He hadn't even finished his sentence before the tears came.
She'd never seen Chat cry. Stupidly, she'd almost thought him incapable of it. All that swagger, all those jokes, hiding a pain beyond her level of understanding.
Now, at three in the morning, they were shoulder to shoulder on her bed, sharing the only pillow. "You peel grapes?" Marinette whispered.
Chat nodded. "With my teeth. Started doing it one day and it became a habit."
"You are so weird."
"Like you don't have any weird habits," he protested, poking her side with a claw. "And it's not that weird. Peeling grapes is the norm in Japan."
"You're not Japanese."
"As far as you know," he said in Japanese.
Marinette sat up, yanked the pillow out from under his head, and whacked him with it. "Oh my God!" she hissed. Chat shook with silent laughter as they got into a tug-of-war with the pillow. She was surprisingly strong; he almost ripped the pillow apart trying to snatch it away from her, but eventually succeeded. He folded it in half and tucked it under his head.
"You're not getting this back."
"Stupid cat." She laid her head on his chest instead. He tensed. "Is this okay?"
Chat hesitated a moment before his arm wrapped around her shoulders. "Yeah," he whispered. They were silent then, content to listen to each other breathe. After a few minutes, Marinette shifted.
"I talk to the gargoyles on Notre Dame," she said. She felt Chat lower his head to look at her. She lifted her head to look at him. "That's Disney's fault, though."
He covered his eyes with his hand. "You're killing me, Princess."
Chapter 6: Distracting
MariChat May Day 3: Injured
Chat's ears twitched in Marinette's direction. She'd dropped her sewing scissors, cradling her fingers with a frown. "What happened?" he asked.
"Nothing." She walked over to her sink and he abandoned her French textbook to follow, concerned. "It's a small cut," she said as she turned on the faucet and stuck her finger under the water. Burnt orange swirls of blood washed down the drain.
"Let me see it," Chat said, gesturing for her hand.
Marinette's brow crinkled. "You're not going to lick the blood off, are you?"
"What? No!" Chat looked appalled. "That's disgusting and unsanitary. I'm getting you a bandaid." He examined the bleeding cut. "A big bandaid."
"My hero," Marinette drawled.
"Anything for you, Princess."
She held a paper towel against her finger as Chat rummaged around for her first aid kit. Luckily her reputation for clumsiness would keep him from asking how she'd gotten distracted. The last thing she wanted was to admit she'd been checking him out.
Chapter 7: Good Looking Out
MariChat May Day 12: Sleep Talking
Marinette froze. A wave of dread washed over her body. He couldn't have figured out her identity—she wasn't ready for that yet. She looked from her textbook to the boy beside her.
He was still asleep. One of his costume ears twitched, the tip of his tail flicked, and his brow furrowed ever-so-slightly.
Marinette leaned over him. Her heart beat out an unsteady rhythm. She watched his face contort into a frown, his lips forming around the name Ladybug again. "What is it, chaton?" she murmured.
His hands twitched again. "You left your yo-yo on the hood of the car."
Marinette leaned back, her body shaken by silent laughter. "Oh, thanks for reminding me!"
"More careful next time," Chat said. He took a deep breath and rolled over. When he continued to sleep, Marinette shook her head, adjusted her blanket to cover him better, and resumed studying. Or at least she tried to. She wasted half an hour imagining Ladybug and Chat Noir on a cross-country road trip.
Chapter 8: The Traveling Chat
MariChat May Day 21: The Chat Noir Doll
"Have you seen Chat's new Instagram?"
It was a perfect spring day for enjoying fast food outdoors. Marinette, chewing a mouthful of French fries, frowned across the table at Alya before swallowing. "Chat has a new Instagram? I swear, he never tells me anything."
"It's because you don't approve of his shenanigans," Alya said. "That's a direct quote, by the way." She handed Marinette her phone.
The account name was chatonnoir, and every single photo starred the Chat Noir doll Marinette had sewn and—against her better judgment—let Chat borrow. Apparently, the doll had a very active superhero life of its own. One image showed it atop the Eiffel Tower watching the sun set. The caption read, all in a day's work.
"I want to say I can't believe this, but I can," Marinette said.
Alya pointed her drink at the phone. "Keep going. It gets pretty ridiculous."
There was a photo of the doll with a butterfly perched on its head. The doll floating on an inflatable chair in the middle of Le Grand Paris' rooftop swimming pool. The doll at a bus stop, sitting upright between two other waiting people.
"Is that Adrien?" Marinette shrieked.
Sure enough, there was close-up of the doll leaning against Adrien's face, its hands pressed to its cheeks. Met supermodel Adrien Agreste today! kyaaaaaa! read the caption.
"Yup," Alya said. "That doll got to first base before you did."
Chapter 9: The Substitute Babysitter
MariChat May Day 8: Dancing
Marinette climbed the ladder to her bedroom with a tray of cookies balanced in one hand. As she reached the top, her mother called from the sofa. "Honey, could you turn the music down just a bit? I know you're trying to keep Manon entertained, but we don't want to get any noise complaints."
Marinette smiled. "Sure thing!" She pushed open the door, flooding the downstairs with throbbing dance music, and climbed through, setting the tray on the floor before hoisting herself the rest of the way up. "Snacks have arrived," she declared. "Get them while they're–what are you doing?"
In the middle of the room, Manon and Chat Noir stood in a weird squatting position. "No, no, no, you have to wiggle it," Manon said.
Chat looked over his shoulder at Marinette. "Manon's teaching me how to twerk."
"Manon doesn't even know what twerking is," Marinette said.
"What?" Chat feigned shock and indignation. He glared at Manon. "Then I want my money back."
Manon stuck her tongue out at him and ran for the cookies. "Could you turn the music down, chaton?" Marinette asked.
When Chat had dropped in one evening during a rare emergency babysitting session, Marinette's first response had been to freak out. She'd tried to make it appear as if he'd shown up uninvited. She'd even thrown a few things at him. But Manon didn't buy it for a minute. Chat made matters worse by cheerfully admitting Marinette was a special friend of his.
What saved their secret was Manon's reputation for tall tales. When she did let slip she'd hung out with Marinette and Chat Noir, it was assumed she was talking about the doll, not the actual superhero.
"Me and Chat Noir came up with a dance routine," Manon told her. "Do you want to see it?"
"It's under construction, but I think we're onto something," Chat added.
"Sure." Marinette walked over and sat on the chaise with the snacks while Chat went to her computer to switch songs. He glanced at her and shot her a wink. She rolled her eyes.
An energetic pop song burst out of the computer speakers. Chat joined Manon, who nodded at him once before they launched into their routine.
It was terrible.
Neither of them were in sync. Not with the music, not with each other. Marinette crammed a cookie in her mouth so she couldn't burst into hysterical laughter. She didn't want to hurt Manon's feelings. Chat, though—he wasn't going to hear the end of it any time soon.
But as they concluded their routine-in-progress, Marinette couldn't help noticing how happy they both were. Chat applauded Manon's dancing and insisted on an encore. Manon bowed several times, then started making suggestions for what to add to the routine next. Marinette, having no talent for babysitting, sat back and let her partner have his fun, thinking all the while that he'd make an excellent father.
Chapter 10: Chatstronaut
MariChat May Day 18: Stargazing
When Marinette complained of not being able to see a single star in the Parisian sky, she hadn't expected Chat Noir to show up with a star projector tucked under his arm. "I had a space phase," he explained as he plugged it into her wall outlet. "My father didn't approve, but my mother indulged me. She made me a little astronaut costume and everything."
Marinette smiled at him from her computer chair. "Chat Noir in Space. It sounds like the name of a kid's show."
"If I did go, I'd be following in the paw prints of the great Félicette," Chat said nobly.
"You do know that you're human, right?"
He flicked off her bedroom lights and returned to the star projector. "I didn't test it before I came over so there's a good chance it might not work," he warned. But when he flipped the on switch, the projector came alive, splaying thousands of stars around the room, dozens on every surface.
Marinette stood from her chair and walked into the center of room. Stars decorated her skin and clothes. "It's beautiful," she said. She looked over at Chat and found him equally dressed in twinkling lights, a distracted expression on his face.
"Yeah," he said, "it really is."
Chapter 11: The Mask of Chat Noir
MariChat May Day 15: Costume Party
The Agreste's Annual Costume Ball was more of an excuse for designers to let their hair down than anything else. Once a year the invited gathered at Le Grand Paris in dazzling displays of their talents, seeing who could come up with the most beautiful or outrageous costume for themselves or their models.
This year Adrien had secured invitations for Alya, Nino, and Marinette. "You have to come," he'd said to Marinette. "You're a brilliant designer. When they see your work they'll be dying to hire you."
She had to admit it was a fantastic networking opportunity. If she just happened to let it slip that she'd won a Gabriel Agreste design contest and designed Jagged Stone's favorite glasses, well. Who knew what could happen?
But she still needed a model. Alya wanted to mingle with the press covering the event so she was out. Nino's messy eating habits made him a danger to any outfit. Adrien had to model his father's costume design. Which left…
"How do you feel about modeling, chaton?"
Chat's eyes had taken on a wicked gleam at the question. "I wouldn't do it for a living, but as a favor to someone I cared about, sure."
And that was how Marinette ended up wandering the costume ball by herself, starstruck and sweaty-palmed, while she waited for Chat to make his entrance.
Somehow in the mass of people and brightly colored fabrics, she ran into Adrien. His father had dressed him like a nobleman, hair swept back and neatly arranged to look like spun gold. Marinette cursed the fact that he could still fill her stomach with butterflies. "You look amazing," she said to him.
"T-Thanks!" Adrien laughed and—was it her imagination, or was he blushing? He looked her over and Marinette's spine unconsciously straightened. "Where's your model?"
"On the way. He, uh, got caught up in something." She checked the time on her phone. "Should be here in a few minutes, actually."
Adrien grinned, something playful flickering behind his eyes. "You'll knock them dead. I'm sure of it." He gave her shoulder a reassuring pat, then excused himself and vanished into the crowd.
At exactly 9:30, the murmur began. A tall, black-clad figure moved through the assembly like a shadow, long cape flowing behind him. The hat atop his head hid cat ears from view. It was just dark enough that no one could see his eyes well, obscured as they were behind mask and hat. On his hip he wore a sword, and every step he took was accentuated by the click of spurs.
Designers whispered fervently. Women clutched at each other. The crowd parted for him as he strode across the ballroom towards Marinette, who had just become aware of the stares and turned around.
Chat Noir stood before her as Zorro, twice as devilish and drop dead gorgeous for someone showing very little skin. He bowed before her, took her hand, and kissed it. "Princesa," he murmured.
Marinette went weak in the knees. She giggled once and then she couldn't stop, mentally scolding herself for being felled by her own design. "Y-You can get off the floor now."
Chat stood and offered her his arm. "I don't have long. We should mingle while we can."
"Right," she said, remembering her purpose there. "Mingle."
With all the attention Chat's entrance had drawn, it wasn't hard to find people to talk to. Marinette's only real challenge was keeping from dragging him into the nearest closet and ripping both his costumes off.
Chapter 12: Speak No Evil
MariChat May Day 6: "I Like Someone Else"
Before the words left Marinette's mouth, they weren't true. When confronted by a nice guy who genuinely liked her, her mind reasoned the easiest way to turn him down was to claim her heart belonged to another. "Sorry," she told him, "I like someone else." In hindsight her behavior may have been a little immature for a sixteen-year-old high school student. Worst of all, Adrien had walked by in time to catch the whole thing: from her classmate's nervous confession to her guilt-laden rejection.
But the funniest thing happened once the words were out in the world. They echoed loud in Marinette's ears, bouncing around her thoughts, pestering her to the point of total distraction. She stared at her tablet and pondered them until they no longer made sense.
Then she went home.
She had two hours to get school work done before Chat came sniffing around. First order of business was to unlock her windows in case he dropped by sooner. She grabbed a few pastries from the bakery while she was downstairs in case he turned up hungry. The sky looked ready to dump a healthy amount of rain on Paris, so she left a towel on her chaise lounge for him.
Only when she caught herself running a brush through her hair and dabbing on lip gloss did the rejection come flying back at her.
I like someone else.
Roses bloomed in Marinette's cheeks. She stuffed the lip gloss into her purse.
Chat came by an hour later but he spoke little, lost in his own thoughts
Chapter 13: He Loves Me Not
MariChat May Day 2: In Denial
"You've spent a lot of time with Chat Noir lately," Tikki said around a mouthful of chocolate chip cookie.
The autumn afternoon sun sank towards the horizon as Marinette walked home from the movie theater. Cinema-inspired dresses swam before her eyes and if she'd had the money, a pit stop at the fabric store for supplies would have been unavoidable. "Wasn't that movie romantic, Tikki?" she swooned.
"Yes, it was very romantic, but you're ignoring the subject." Tikki licked crumbs off her paws, then darted from Marinette's purse to her jacket collar. "You sigh a lot these days. You stare into space for minutes at a time, either blushing or looking worried. You watch nothing but soap operas and old black-and-white movies and cry through all of them."
Marinette stuck out her bottom lip. "What's your point?"
"Marinette," Tikki whined.
She lifted her hand, pretending to adjust her collar so she could pat Tikki's head. "It's nothing," she said. "Maybe I'm just having one of those really sensitive periods."
"And Chat Noir?"
"He's my friend." Marinette's fingers curled around her purse strap. She lifted her head to drink in the purples of sunset and wondered if Chat would swing by that evening. He could keep her company while she sketched all her new dress ideas. Knowing him, he'd hover over her shoulder watching her work, or lay around asking her questions until she kicked him out. He'd taken to asking her questions recently. When she asked him why, he shrugged and said he liked hearing her responses. "He's fun to be around," she said to Tikki, who wore a skeptical pout. "That's all."
"You don't sound very sure."
She had no response to that. In any case, Chat Noir was in love with Ladybug. The evenings he spent with Marinette after his patrols, the endless parade of random questions, his casual invasion of her personal space, the few times she caught him staring and he didn't look away… none of it meant anything.
And the little ache in her heart that accompanied that knowledge, well, that didn't mean anything either.
Chapter 14: Be Mine
MariChat May Day 13: Possessive Kitty
He had to have been the biggest idiot in Paris.
He hung out with Marinette almost every day, and he hadn't known, hadn't seen. She never talked about it! How was he supposed to guess that she had a crush on someone?
I like someone else.
Of course she did. Being friends didn't mean she belonged to him. If he never opened up about his own feelings, he couldn't have expected her to respond to them. The Cataclysm eating away at his heart every day—that was his fault, not hers.
"Princess" wasn't a declaration of love. It was only a name.
"Hmm." He sat behind her, his chin on her shoulder, breathing in the damp scent of her freshly washed hair.
Marinette's voice came out a squeak. "What are you doing?"
Being an idiot, he thought as he lowered his head further and nuzzled her shoulder. A cat-like neediness came over him, an overwhelming desire to be reassured. The idea that she could love someone else triggered a dull ache in his chest, too deep and too painful for purring to fix. His hand moved to her hip. He turned himself over to the desire to burrow his face into her neck. Some irrational instinct told him that if he left his scent there, it'd keep everyone else away.
"Chat…?" Marinette's voice was unmistakably breathy.
His hand slid from her hip to her stomach. He nuzzled his way to the back of her neck and pushed her wet hair aside to brush her skin with his lips. He heard the air catch in her throat.
He couldn't stop himself. He rubbed and caressed and kissed his way up her neck, to her ear. Her head lolled to the side. Her eyes fluttered shut. The most beautiful blush decorated her freckled cheeks and if he could kiss every one of those freckles he'd be the happiest cat in the world but she liked someone else and he was in so much pain...
The soft moan that escaped Marinette's parted lips startled both of them. Chat's eyes snapped open. He pulled away from her so fast that she almost fell backwards into the space he'd vacated.
"I, uh, have to go," he managed to get out before shame propelled him through her open window.
He fled across the rooftops, praying he wouldn't run into his Lady.
Chapter 15: Finish What You Start
MariChat May Day 16: Confessions
Marinette had a bad habit of getting caught in the rain. Her propensity for running late meant she often left the house without checking the weather or grabbing an umbrella. But for once she wasn't mad about the downpour the Parisian sky dumped on her. It complemented her mood quite nicely.
She hadn't seen Chat Noir since the incident in which they'd both gotten carried away. He stopped coming by. There had been no akuma attacks, and they alternated patrol nights six days a week so the only day she could see him was Sunday, and he'd been conspicuously absent.
Marinette trudged along, dragging her feet. Somewhere in Paris a boy likely tortured himself for getting caught between her and herself, and she was too much of a coward to end the facade once and for all.
Someone grabbed her.
Marinette screamed. She was scooped up and then airborne, carried off in gloomy daylight by none other than Chat Noir. She wanted to yell at him for scaring her but the troubled expression on his face silenced her. He leapt from rooftop to rooftop, finally stopping in a small, cramped alcove between buildings, where he set her down out of the rain. "What are you doing, Princess? You're going to get sick."
She took in his wet hair and suit and pursed her lips. "You're one to talk."
Chat looked away. Neither spoke. The rain splattered around them raucously, but the alcove sheltered them from weather and curious eyes alike. Marinette shivered for reasons that had nothing to do with being wet and everything to do with her proximity to a guy who'd set her aflame, then left her cold.
"Marinette, I need to apologize."
"Yes you do." She fixed him with an unflinching stare.
Chat shifted. "What happened the other day… I mean, the way I behaved was very untoward, and I probably made you uncomfortable."
Marinette nodded, breathing harder than normal over her racing heart. "Can't think of anything ruder than leaving a girl unkissed," she said, and for the first time that day he looked her straight in the eye. Marinette gazed into his, letting every feeling and every realization she'd held back for weeks settle comfortably inside of her. She lifted her hand and touched his cheek, slid her fingers down to his jaw. "I wanted you to kiss me, chaton." Her voice wavered. "I still do."
He caught her hand in his and swept his lips across her fingers, never once breaking eye contact. He stepped closer. She tilted her chin up to keep sight of him. His fingers threaded through hers. She laid her other hand on his chest. He leaned in. She closed her eyes. Felt his lips on her cheek, his nose against hers, his shaking hand on the side of her neck.
Their lips met. It was a gentle and inexperienced kiss, but the rush of emotions it sent through Marinette could have rivaled that of the most passionate embraces. He pulled back. Clouded green eyes met hazy blue. They kissed again, a bit longer, then again, even longer, working through their shyness to figure out how to get what they wanted. Marinette's fingers ended up curled in his hair. Chat's arms found their way around her, keeping her pressed against him. She broke the kiss and he leaned in after her, nuzzling her cheek in a silent plea before capturing her lips again.
They lost track of time. Only when the rain quieted did Chat withdraw, and then just far enough to cup her face in his hands and kiss her cheeks, eyelids, and forehead. "I like you, Marinette," he said, his voice thick with feeling. "I like you a lot."
"I like you too, Chat," she whispered, afraid that her tone would give away how much. "But this is…"
"Crazy? Complicated?" She nodded. He pulled her into an embrace. "I know." They stayed like that for a minute before Chat reluctantly let go and stepped out of the alcove. "Come on, Princess. You need to get dry."
He deposited her a block away from the bakery. He kissed her again, promised her he'd come by in a few days, then vaulted onto a rooftop and vanished. Marinette leaned back into a wall. She lifted her fingers to her tingling lips. A pair of large eyes peered up at her from her purse and she let out a loud sigh. "Oh Tikki, I'm in so much trouble."
Chapter 16: Kneady
MariChat May Day 1: Cat Tendencies
"Is he okay?" Alya asked.
Marinette looked up from her hand of cards. Chat Noir lay face down between her and Alya, his claws buried in a plush blanket, fingers stretching and closing repeatedly. A loud purr rumbled from his chest. "He's fine," Marinette said. "Hit me."
The deck of cards sat on Chat's lower back. Alya skimmed one from the top and gave it to Marinette. "Are you sure? He's been down there a while."
Marinette reexamined her hand. "Trust me, I've seen him go longer than this. But if you're that worried…" She leaned over and grabbed Chat by the collar, yanking him up to her eye level and upsetting the deck of cards.
He blinked at her, dazed. "What?"
"Nothing, minou," she said. She kissed his nose before releasing him, then focused her attention back on the card game. Within seconds he started kneading the blanket again. Marinette showed Alya her hand. "Twenty."
"This is weird," Alya said as she flipped over her second card.
"No weirder than me dating a superhero," Marinette assured her.
Chapter 17: The Chat Noir Defense Squad
MariChat May Day 5: Protective Marinette
Browsing the Ladyblog was part of Marinette's weekly routine. She maintained her account for the sole purposes of encouraging Alya and throwing people off her civilian identity trail. Chat confessed he did the same thing for himself under a pseudonym, but he wouldn't tell Marinette what his username was. She had her guesses, of course. Trying to figure out who he was online had become something of a guilty pleasure of hers.
As had trolling Chat Noir haters.
chat noir sucks! all he does is get in Ladybug's way and leech off her fame!
Marinette hit the reply button.
I'd love to see YOU out there helping Ladybug.
Normally Alya would put a stop to Chat hate, but hey, the girl couldn't be everywhere at once. Marinette smirked as she scrolled through the comments on Alya's latest post.
what are Chat Noir's powers even good for
Saving the lives of the ungrateful, apparently.
If Chat spent as much time browsing the Ladyblog as she did, he was bound to see those nasty comments. She couldn't imagine he felt very good about them. But he never complained, never tired of fighting alongside her and being kind to the citizens he interacted with. If there were negative feelings in him somewhere, he kept them hidden well.
Marinette left her computer. She went downstairs and returned more than an hour later with a small, freshly baked cake, which she decorated with little green paw prints.
When Chat Noir climbed in through her window shortly after, the cake sat at the foot of the chaise lounge. "What's this?" he asked.
Marinette submitted her last hater-reply of the night and closed her internet browser, spinning in her computer chair to face Chat. "A gift."
Chat picked up the plate and joined her by the desk. "I see that, but what's the occasion?" He reached forward to poke the cake with a claw, but Marinette slapped his hand and frowned at him. He frowned back. A grin slowly spread across her face and she handed him a fork.
"I was just thinking," she said, "that Paris ought to have a Chat Noir appreciation day."
"That's a terrible idea," Chat said as he dug into the cake. "I hear that guy's got a huge ego." Marinette laughed and watched him take the all-important first bite. He closed his eyes, his expression rapturous. "Although, if there's going to be cake like this, we can surely put up with him for one day." When his eyes opened again, they glittered with happiness. He bent over and planted a kiss on Marinette's lips. "Thank you."
Chapter 18: Thoughtless
MariChat May Day 26: Angry Kiss
Marinette silently cleaned blood off Chat's face. He'd made two puns already and hadn't gotten a response, so he settled for drooping ears and the best sad kitty eyes he could muster with one swollen shut. She pressed an alcohol soaked cotton swab to the cut above his mask and he winced.
"You're going to get yourself killed one of these days."
He studied her expression: blank gaze, mouth pressed into a thin line, all concentration and no emotion.
"Charging in recklessly to pass the time until Ladybug shows up, like your life isn't worth anything at all."
Chat looked away.
"Like you don't even care how much it'll hurt the people who love you if you just suddenly…"
Her gentle dabbing motions stopped.
"…disappeared one day."
They sat in silence. When he mustered up the courage to look at her again, she got up and gathered the first aid supplies, busying herself to avoid his gaze.
"Go home, Chat. Ladybug will take care of the akuma."
"She might need my help."
"You can't help anyone with one eye swollen shut." She turned away from him. He caught her wrist.
Her shoulders sagged. She sat back on the bed, touched his cheek as gently as she could, and pressed a faint kiss to his lips. "Go home. Her powers will fix you up better than I can."
Chapter 19: Old Flame
MariChat May Day 7: Adrien Posters
"Chat, no, stop!" Marinette begged from her chaise lounge, but Chat Noir had already studied the poster and moved into position. In a perfect imitation of Adrien Agreste, he struck a model pose and gazed thoughtfully into the distance. Marinette groaned. "Oh my God. It should be illegal for you to be so good at this." She buried her face in her hands.
Chat set the poster down and ran a hand through his hair. "Why? You don't think I'm handsome enough to be a model?"
"Of course you are. You just shouldn't be so good at mimicking the guy I was crazy about two years ago." Marinette retrieved the poster, stacked it with the others Chat had unearthed from her desk drawer, and returned them to her inspiration binder. When she looked up at Chat again, she found him staring at her. "What?"
"You were crazy about him?" he asked.
Marinette blushed and hunched her shoulders self-consciously. "Yeah. I sat behind him in class. Spent all my time daydreaming about him. But whenever I tried to talk to him all that came out was 'Good Adrien, morning! I mean Adrien, morning good! Morning is good!'"
Chat sat down beside her and leaned forward with his elbows on his thighs. Marinette slid over and rested her chin on his shoulder. "It's funny," she said, "I almost didn't like him because of a silly misunderstanding. Then when I saw how kind he was…" She sighed. "My heart didn't stand a chance." His silence became noticeable. She poked his side. "What? Don't tell me you're jealous, chaton. He's just a friend."
Chat lifted his head to meet her gaze. She wore a playful pout, but her eyes searched his for traces of injury. He turned, cupped her face in his hands and let several unsaid things pass between them before he lowered his lips to hers in a slow, burning kiss. "He was stupid not to love you," Chat murmured as she pulled him down on top of her, knocking binder and posters to the floor.
Chapter 20: The Feeling is Mutual
MariChat May Day 27: Sin
It was hard not to flirt in the suit.
During akuma battles, on their Sunday night patrols, the temptation was there. Marinette would get an eyeful of his body outlined by the setting sun and she'd have trouble keeping her hands to herself. Or he'd do something particularly heroic, showing off his Chat Noir strength in a way he was mindful not to in front of Marinette Dupain-Cheng, and Marinette, hidden behind mask and spots, would feel the fire burning in her gut.
She had a list of secret places around Paris she wanted to feel him up in. Was that weird?
She didn't notice, until a night she saw Chat purposely look away from her, that she'd unconsciously started acting more "awakened" in his presence. Double entendres slipped from her mouth before she could stop them. Her body shifted itself into the best position for his viewing pleasure.
And Chat, precious soul that he was, ignored it as best he could out of loyalty to his girlfriend.
That turned her on, too.
It was hard not to flirt out of the suit.
When they hung out as a group, when they saw each other in school, the temptation was there. Marinette would wear those cute little outfits she designed and Adrien would have to fight the purr building in his chest. Or she'd mention something a "friend" said—that "friend" being Chat Noir—and Chat Noir, hidden in cashmere sweaters and designer jeans, would feel the shit-eating grin rising to his face.
He had a list of public places around Paris he wanted to feel her up in. Was that weird?
He didn't notice, until a day he saw Marinette blush and purposely look away from him, that he'd unconsciously started acting more "awakened" in her presence. He threw flirtatious smiles at her before he could stop himself. His body shifted itself into model poses for her viewing pleasure.
And Marinette, precious soul that she was, ignored it as best she could out of loyalty to her boyfriend.
That turned him on, too.
Chapter 21: Film Noir
MariChat May Day 9: Movie Night
Every time the list of Academy Award nominated films came out, Marinette got excited and swore she would watch them. This year she'd gotten as far as renting them. When Chat Noir found out what she was up to he asked to join her because, according to him, he needed some culture. Marinette said yes.
She borrowed a projector from Nino so the films could be displayed on her bedroom wall in all their Academy Award nominated glory. She built a cozy movie-watching nest for herself and Chat. He brought a selection of gourmet popcorn he'd gotten from a place he wouldn't name. She put on her comfiest pajamas.
All preparations made, they settled into the nest together and Marinette pressed play.
Then they made out through the entire movie.
They made out through The Martian.
They made out through Bridge of Spies.
Mad Max: Fury Road they watched the most of, but then Chat bit Marinette's shoulder because she was hogging the popcorn, she bit him back, and they made out through the rest of the movie.
They promised they would keep their hands to themselves at the beginning of The Revenant. They even shook on it. Then Marinette got so excited about the bear that she tackled Chat and they made out anyway.
"Maybe we should skip the movie this time and go straight to the kissing," Chat suggested as Marinette loaded Room on her computer. She wrinkled her nose.
"I don't know," she said, "I kind of like the atmosphere. If we just groped each other in the dark without the movie, it wouldn't be any different from our regular Fridays."
"So this is… date night?"
"Yup." Marinette pressed play and wiggled under the blankets. Chat watched the vaguely-Marinette-shaped lump move around before she popped out, grabbed him by the bell, and dragged him into the dark with her. Lots of shuffling and snickering later, Chat had Marinette pinned beneath him.
"Now you're not even trying," he complained. Thanks to his night vision he could see her clearly, staring up at him with an enormous smile. But when she leaned up to kiss him, she missed and got his cheek. "You can't see me, can you?"
"I see an outline," Marinette said.
"Hmm." Chat buried a clawed hand in her loose hair and trailed kisses up her neck. "In that case…"
A bright green light flashed behind Marinette's eyelids. She gasped. Her eyes snapped open in her shock but she closed them immediately, catching nothing but a glimpse of blond hair. "Chat?" she squeaked. The hand in her hair was as bare as her own.
"Just this once," he whispered in her ear, and the yearning behind it made her skin tingle.
If anyone had asked Marinette what Room was about, she'd have told them the way Chat groaned as she left love marks all over his bare torso.
Chapter 22: She Mad
MariChat May Day 14: Possessive Marinette
"Is there any particular reason you're straddling me?"
Marinette tilted her head. "Do I need a reason?"
Chat laid a hand on her lower back and pulled her closer. "No," he said thoughtfully, his other hand tugging on the strap of her tank top. "I just have this suspicion that you're unhappy."
She feigned innocence. "About what?"
"About that akumatized girl who was in love with me."
"Oh," Marinette said. "That." She gave him a chaste kiss. "Why would I be unhappy about that?"
"Because Alya got a pretty damning video of me pinned under a leather-clad cat girl."
Another chaste kiss. "So?"
Her hand curled around his bell and Chat swallowed. "So, I think you're mad."
She pulled him into a hungrier, lingering kiss, but drew back before he could deepen it. "Silly kitty." She kissed his cheek. "I know you're mine." His neck. "You know you're mine." She nipped his earlobe. "What's there to be mad about?"
Chat's hands roamed her back. "You tell me."
Chapter 23: Guilty Conscience
MariChat May Day 10: Nightmare
Marinette woke up crying.
Rather, she opened her eyes and there were tears in them. The sun shone gaily through her skylight. She felt warm and sticky. Sorrow carved a hole deep into her chest, making it hard to breathe. She turned her head and her tears cut paths across her nose and temple.
Chat sat on the bed beside her, his back against the wall, reading a fashion magazine she'd picked up on her way home for lunch. His lunch hour visits were a recent development; they had yet to figure out the best day for him to come, so Marinette always unlocked the skylight just in case. She stared at him, still groggy, unable to stop her tears from falling. But it wasn't until she sniffled that he raised his head.
Chat blinked. "Marinette?"
She sniffled again.
He set down the magazine and leaned over her, sweeping her bangs away from her eyes with a gentle caress. "What's wrong?" The tenderness in his voice freed a quiet sob from her throat. "Did you have a bad dream?"
Marinette nodded. She took his hand and nuzzled it, not caring if his ring scratched the bridge of her nose.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Chat asked.
She would have loved to. Her small fingers gripped his hand, the very same hand that had pushed her away in her nightmare. Listened to him murmur reassurances instead of hurling anger and disgust.
Ladybug. You were Ladybug this whole time? What kind of sick game are you playing?
Did you have fun toying with my feelings, making me look like an idiot? Don't touch me!
"I'm sorry," she whispered to his ring. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"
Two years were two too many.
Chapter 24: Payback
MariChat May Day 25: Minion Marinette
Chat crept through Marinette's window, dropped behind her chaise lounge, and surveyed they room. No sign of her. The text she'd sent had been friendly enough, but considering she'd sworn she would have her revenge for his teasing last time, Chat was on high alert. He stood straight and scented the air. No, she was definitely in the room, which meant…
"There you are!"
Chat lifted his head.
And his heart stopped.
Marinette stood on the top step of the loft ladder dressed in what some might have called a cat suit, but he would have called a black two-piece bikini with gloves and boots modeled after his. A black mask covered her mischievously narrowed eyes. She wore a cat ear headband—he swallowed air—a black belt as a tail and—he could have cried—a bell around her neck.
"I was starting to worry I'd have to save Paris by myself," she said.
So much skin.
Marinette descended the ladder, swinging her hips in a deliberately sultry manner with each step. She walked right up to him.
So many freckles.
"Oh Mr. Hero," she crooned, "your sidekick is reporting for duty."
So was another Chat Noir.
"Does–" Chat's voice cracked. "Does my sidekick have a name?"
She ducked her head, bit her lower lip, fiddled with the bell around her neck, then raised her eyes to meet his. "Well," she said quietly, "you can always call me… minou."
Chat's knees went weak. His hands hovered above her shoulders. Marinette's brows came down so fast he got mental whiplash. "Touch me and you won't get any for a month," she hissed, then giggled and flounced away. "Shall we save the day, Chat Noir?"
Chat's gaze followed her swishing tail. "Uh-huh," he squeaked, and tried to decide if he'd rather trade one month of affection for one night with his kitten
Chapter 25: In Sickness and in Health
MariChat May Day 30: Sick
Chat Noir had a cold. Both he and his kwami were perfectly miserable about it.
"He keeps me up all night with his coughing and moaning," Plagg complained as he nibbled on a cube of cheese. Marinette tried not to smile. She knew what he really meant to say: He's barely getting any sleep and I can't do anything to help. On cue, a pathetic sound came from the loft. Plagg zipped up to see if Chat—the boy who was Chat Noir—was awake.
Marinette sighed. It pained her that all she could do for Chat—the boy who Chat was when he wasn't Chat Noir—was offer him her bed. And her humidifier. And tea, and cold remedies, and the occasional head scratch. Her brow furrowed. He was so lucky she loved him.
Plagg floated back down. "He's totally out of it. What did you give him, anyway?"
"Secret family recipe," Marinette said. "Is it safe to go up there?"
"He's all bundled up, yeah."
She climbed the ladder up to the loft. A mountain of blankets hid one superhero secret identity from view, rising and falling with every congested breath. He'd curled up in a fetal position, Marinette's pink sheets wrapped completely around him, leaving nothing but his nose poking out. It occurred to Marinette that she'd never seen his whole nose before. She resisted the urge to poke it.
"Hey, kitty cat. You're getting sick germs all over my bedroom."
"Ulmaygeddubtoyou," he mumbled.
"You'll make it up to me?" The blankets moved in a nodding motion. Marinette leaned over and kissed the place where his temple would be. "Tell you what: You can make it up to me by getting better. How's that?"
He coughed and sniffled. A pale arm covered in fine blond hairs slid out from under the blankets. Marinette took his hand, marveling at the simple fact that it was his hand. Affection and sadness rushed her simultaneously. But she held on until she was sure he'd fallen asleep, then left before she could act on her desire to peek.
Chapter 26: Daredevil
MariChat May Day 4: Protective Chat
When Marinette told Chat she'd always wanted to try something, he fully expected her to tweak his costume ears. Pull his tail. Make him give her a piggyback ride around her bedroom.
Not tightrope walk across his extended baton, five stories above ground.
"Princess, I don't like this," he said as she tottered two steps ahead of him, one foot in front of the other, her arms outstretched to either side. If it were Ladybug, he'd have stood back and let her do as she pleased. But Marinette had no yo-yo to save her, no superpowers to cushion her fall. Just a flimsy dress and ballet flats that guaranteed her no real grip on the staff.
Marinette took another step, her eyes focused dead ahead. She wouldn't venture far. The high pitch of Chat's voice told her that he regretted everything about saying yes and wouldn't be happy until she was no longer suspended above a busy street with no safety net. But it was her eighteenth birthday, damn it, and she wanted to see just how much of her Ladybug grace was Miraculous-born.
Slowly, with tiny, shuffling movements, she turned herself around to face Chat. The baton remained steady and sure under her feet, but the way he looked at her, it might as well have been a bucking bronco. Marinette smiled at him and took a bow. "Ta-da!"
Chat offered weak applause. "That's very nice, Marinette, but please come back before my heart gives out."
"Sure," she said as she slid one step forward. "Though I don't know what you're so worried about. If I fall, you catch me, right?"
"That's not the point," Chat snapped. The hard edge in his tone surprised her, made her hesitate, and in that moment of hesitation she lost her balance. Her arms flailed wildly in the open air. She pitched forward.
A clawed hand clamped around her wrist and yanked her off the baton, back to the roof. She collided with Chat and they toppled over, landing hard on the shingles beneath. "Are you–?" she began to ask, but his arms wrapped around her, pressed her into him so tight that her chest ached. His whole body shook. He stroked her hair almost mindlessly, and guilt surged into the space left behind by Marinette's fear. Her eyes filled with tears. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "That was stupid of me."
Chat neither agreed nor disagreed. He merely planted a kiss on her forehead and continued to hold her until his shaking subsided.
Chapter 27: Accidents Happen
MariChat May Day 11: "I Almost Lost You"
About a month after Marinette's eighteenth birthday, she developed appendicitis.
Chat worried about her health, the surgical procedure, and her recovery. He could tell Marinette was nervous too, though she did her best to put on a cheerful mask for him. "Relax, kitty. I bounce back fast," she assured him. "I'll be at a hundred percent before you know it."
The day of her surgery, Chat went on patrol. He was too restless to sit at home waiting for her to be brought back to the bakery.
Two hours later a notification sound from his baton alerted him to a new post on the Ladyblog. The message was brief: Hey guys. I'm sorry to say there won't be any updates this week. My best friend went in for a routine surgery this afternoon and had a bad reaction to the anesthesia. She's stable now, but we're all pretty shaken up. Please keep her in your thoughts. I'll be back as soon as I can.
Chat didn't know how he got to the hospital. It seemed like one moment he was on the Eiffel Tower and the next he was there, landing on the rooftop beside Alya, whose face was bright red from crying. "She's all right," she said before Chat could get a word in. "They took her appendix out. She's going to be fine."
He had to see her. He didn't care if it looked strange, his visiting a random girl at the hospital; excuses were easy to come by. Alya led him into the building, ignoring the gawking stares of doctors and nurses. He tried not to look as sick to his stomach as he felt.
To say that Marinette's parents were surprised was an understatement. Neither of them could speak, which was just as well because Alya didn't know what to say to them. But Chat didn't notice. The only person in the room, in the entire world, was Marinette, lying on the hospital bed looking sick and frail.
Rumors spread. Gossip tabloids seized on the news. Within days it was understood that Chat Noir, one half of Paris's superhero duo, refused to leave the bedside of one Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Alya did her best to diffuse the situation, claiming that Ladybug and Chat Noir knew Marinette and were shocked to hear what had happened to her.
Chat did send Ladybug a message. Several messages. She was always asking him about Marinette, so he'd expected her to turn up within minutes or hours of him. He could have used her support.
But Ladybug didn't come that first day.
She didn't come on the second day, either.
On the third day, Chat realized why she'd never shown up.
And when Marinette woke up, he kissed her like she was the most rare and beautiful thing in the world.
Chapter 28: Unconditionally
MariChat May Day 28: Hospital Visits
Marinette was scheduled to go home the next day, but Chat brought her flowers anyway. She acknowledged them with a quiet, distant thanks, and avoided his gaze. His heart sank.
She'd been withdrawn ever since he'd called her "my Lady" shortly after she woke up. Her head had jerked up, a horrified expression on her face that turned his happiness into matching panic, and then she shut down on him completely. He wasn't sure if the flowers were meant as an apology, a token of his love, or a gesture of peace and goodwill.
It didn't help that doctors, nurses, and lawyers kept swinging by in addition to her family and friends. There was no peace in a hospital. At least Alya had noticed the odd tension between them and left them alone.
Marinette stared at her hands, folded in her lap. Chat sighed and turned toward the window. It was clear she had no intention of talking to him. "Guess I'll head out then," he said, not even trying to disguise his disappointment.
He stopped. Marinette wrung her hands, which he noticed were trembling. He sat in the chair closest to her bedside and waited. Her eyes filled with tears. "Umm," she whispered, "I, uh…" A sob burst from her throat and she buried her face in her hands.
Chat leaned forward, alarmed. "Princess?"
"I didn't want to hide it from you," she said, her shoulders shaking. "I didn't—none of this was meant to happen. We're partners. I tried to keep our lives separate, but…"
Now he did leave his chair, opting to sit on the hospital bed and pull Marinette into his arms. "It's okay," he said.
"Please don't be mad at me."
"Why would I be mad at you?" He kissed the top of her head and stroked her back. "You're Marinette, my Ladybug. Strong and brave and beautiful, and I love you so much." She looked up at him. He smiled. "And you loved me enough to take care of me both in and out of the suit, even though it hurt to keep it secret."
She leaned into his shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"There's nothing to be sorry for." Chat held her carefully, mindful of her recent surgery. To think that Ladybug could be so frail. For once he was the strong one, the one who knew just what to say and do, the one who would save the day. He tilted her chin up and kissed her. "Don't worry, my Lady. I'll keep Paris in order until you're recovered enough to be on your feet again."
Marinette managed to frown at him. "How can you be so casual about this?" She sniffled.
"Because," he said, wiping tears from her cheeks, "a long time ago I told myself that whoever was behind the mask, I loved her." He kissed her again. "It just so happens that I fell in love with the girl behind the mask without knowing it. I think that pretty much guarantees that we were meant to be, doesn't it?"
Marinette's already flushed face darkened in color. "Chat, I don't know what to say."
"An 'I love you too' would do nicely."
This time, she smiled, her eyes shimmering with happiness. "I love you too, stupid cat."
She caressed his cheek. "And whoever's behind this mask, I love him, too."
Chapter 29: Everything But the Truth
MariChat May Day 17: Paparazzi
Marinette had a headache. As if the pains of a recent surgery and near brush with death weren't bad enough, her head had decided to join in the chorus. She felt like shit and a half. She didn't want to deal with legal matters. She didn't want to talk with the reporters who sat across from her in the living room, eagerly hanging onto her every word. Couldn't they see her pale complexion? The bucket at her feet in case she threw up—which she had been doing a lot of lately? The pissed off thrashing of her boyfriend's tail despite his plastered on smile?
And the repetition, geez! "How long have you and Chat Noir been dating?" asked someone who clearly hadn't been satisfied the last three times they answered "we aren't dating."
"Chat Noir is a family friend," Marinette lied. Again. "He and Ladybug come by for pastries during patrols."
Ladybug. Marinette held a hand up and gestured for the bucket, which Chat handed to her. She breathed deeply for several seconds to fight off the nausea. Surgery, near death experience, legal matters, and paparazzi were nothing compared to Chat having figured out her identity. She should have let her appendix kill her.
"Where is Ladybug?" someone else asked.
"My Lady had very impurrtent things to attend to this afternoon," Chat answered easily. The fact that he could pun in such a bad mood almost pushed Marinette over the edge. She must have looked close to it, too, as her father finally descended into the madness.
"That's enough questions," Tom Dupain's voice boomed over the rest. He and Sabine had stood in the kitchen, having only agreed to the interview to get the paparazzi off their doorstep, but clearly he'd had enough as well. "My daughter is very tired. She just had surgery," he reminded them.
While he and Sabine escorted the press out of the house, Chat helped Marinette to her feet and slowly led her to the sofa. She laid down with a cringe as he brought the bucket over. "Thanks." Tikki zipped out of Marinette's pocket.
"We'll take it from here, Chat Noir," she said.
Chat smiled at her. "That'll take some getting used to." He crouched down beside Marinette, took her pale hand, and kissed it. "I'm sorry I can't stay. Civilian life calls."
Marinette nodded and gave his hand a weak squeeze. He put a blanket over her legs and handed her the television remote. Marinette watched him approach the open window. "Chat?" she asked.
"Who are you?"
They stared at each other for a tense moment, then he grinned. "Your pawesome boyfriend, of course. Did denying it so many times make you forget?" He saluted her and Tikki before leaping out of the room.
Marinette sighed and squeezed her eyes shut. She felt Tikki's paws on her cheek. "Perhaps it's for the best," she said, hoping sleep would ease her disappointment.
Chapter 30: His Worst Nightmare
MariChat May Day 22: Secrets
It was always on the tip of his tongue.
When he saw her in the hallways at school. When they all went to the movies together and he sat beside her. When they went to restaurants and he pulled her chair out for her. When they were at the park and he offered her his jacket because he noticed her shivering.
I'm Chat Noir.
When they ended an akuma battle with their traditional fist bump—and later, in private, a kiss. When he called her "my Lady" out of costume and she blushed. When she rested her head on his legs and batted at the bell on his collar like she was the cat.
I'm Adrien Agreste.
One breath away. He could have said it whenever he wanted to. Blurted it over the wind as she walked away from him after a patrol. Whispered it against her skin in the middle of the night. Leaned in and murmured it in her ear when they passed each other between classes.
If he had to guess at what stopped him, he'd have blamed the thought of her eyes widening in shock, her mouth falling open, the storm of emotions overtaking her before she settled on anger, embarrassment.
He wasn't sure he had the strength to endure that when almost losing her once had brought him to his knees.
Chapter 31: Do You Take This Man?
MariChat May Day 23: Revelations
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
A sunny afternoon. No school. Marinette lay outstretched on her bedroom floor, contemplating the shape of the ceiling with a lazy smile. Her shirt had ridden up and exposed her appendectomy scar. Chat traced a clawed finger around it. Marinette's toes curled, caught between wanting to wiggle away—she was dreadfully ticklish—and stretch a little more to get a rise out of him.
"If I were to marry you," she said, not sure and not caring how they got on the topic, "my name would be Marinette Noir."
Chat hummed. "You'd have to become a detective with a name like that."
"Ladybug: Private Eye." Her eyes sparkled with excitement.
"Or a femme fatale."
"Only if I get to borrow Plagg."
Chat's finger stopped moving. He turned away from her. "I hate to say it, my Lady, but you do know the fastest routes to lead my mind to the gutter."
"Get down here, then," Marinette said with a pout.
Chat looked at her over his shoulder. She lifted her arms and folded her fingers in a "come to mama" gesture. He laughed, but stayed right where he was. He drew one leg up to rest his arm on his knee. "What about Marinette Agreste?"
Marinette huffed. "Are you ever going to let that crush thing go?"
A pause. Chat tilted his head up towards the window. "I kind of like Adrien Dupain-Cheng better," he confessed.
Silence settled between them. He could hear his own heart beating, hard and fast in his chest, enough to make him sick. He heard the exact moment realization dawned on Marinette: the hitch in her throat, the spike in her pulse followed by quickened breaths, then the scrape of fabric on floor as she sat up slowly.
Fingertips touched his shoulder and he flinched. "Kitty cat?" Her voice, nothing more than a whisper.
"No," he said, "I'm not ever going to let that crush thing go." She inched closer to him. "It makes me way too happy."
Her arms wrapped around his torso, fingers curling against his chest as she pressed herself into his back. He was shaking. "You dumb cat," she sobbed. "My big, dumb scaredy cat…"
Ten minutes passed before she released him, then it was his turn to embrace her, feverish with joy as she breathed his name, stroked his hair, ran her hands over every available inch of him. There was no anger in her expression, only bliss and disbelief. She cupped her face in his hands and let out a tearful laugh. "Of course," was all she said before he kissed her, for the first time, without guilt or restraint. "Of course," she whispered in the space between kisses, her arms twining around his neck.
"I love you," he said.
"My silly cat…"
"I've always loved you."
Then they collapsed into helpless laughter, because they realized it was true for both of them.
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