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Bitter Hearts, Lonely Smiles

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For Chat Noir, it was a situation all too familiar; walking into banks like he owned the place, letting his reputation precede him as civilians cowered in fear at the mere sight of him. In any other context, what appeared to be a blonde teenage boy wearing a cat costume might have been laughable.

Except everyone in Paris knew who he was—Chat Noir, the infamous cat burglar and harbinger of Akuma attacks.

He casually strolled over to the counter, making an effort to show off his sharpened claws as he addressed the terrified-looking bank teller behind the desk. People who had been waiting in line watched in fear, not knowing what he would do next.

“Find the largest safe and hand over everything inside. Try anything and you’ll regret it,” he said, putting on the most menacing look he was capable of.

As the bank teller turned around, Chat bit his lip as he tried not to laugh. Everyone here was so scared of him. Sometimes he was surprised by his own ability to put on a show. All it took to scare people was the crackling energy of his cataclysm and they would give in to his demands immediately.

Chat glanced around, smirking at the group of people who were watching him intently. To him, it was almost comical—he knew he wasn’t going to hurt anyone. They just needed to think that he would. No doubt one of those idiots had already alerted the police via their cellphone of what was happening.

But no matter: that’s exactly what he wanted. Any second now, Ladybug would be here. Deep down inside, Chat believed that all of this—this elaborate show, the perpetuated fear—was worth it if he got to see her. 

“Chat Noir, can’t say that I’m surprised,” a female voice sighed from behind him. Chat’s heartbeat quickened in excitement at the voice, though he effortlessly maintained his indifferent composure.

He turned around, grinning widely at the new arrival. “Ladybug, I must admit I’m shocked! Didn’t think I’d see my favorite pest here today.” He leaned casually on his baton, putting on a smug expression that would most definitely irritate his arch-nemesis. 

Yes, this is definitely how you flirt with girls. Make them loathe you as you continuously try to steal their miraculous and wreak havoc on the city, committing petty burglaries along the way as an excuse to see her. You’re a genius.

Chat was certain that those thoughts had not been his own—Plagg was taunting him, somehow, even though he wasn’t physically here. It would be no surprise, given how determined Plagg was on punishing him for his crimes even though he insisted to the kwami that he didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. 

“Shut up kitty-cat, I don’t have time for your stupid mind games,” Ladybug said, her yo-yo already in motion.

 “Ah, but the mind games are the best part!” Chat said, deflecting Ladybug’s yo-yo with his baton as it came near him. “Tell you what, give me your miraculous and I’ll leave this bank like I was never here. No stolen property, nobody gets hurt. Sound like a deal?”

Ladybug laughed humorlessly. “You’re kidding, right? My answer will always be no.”

Chat shrugged. “Suit yourself. Guess we’ll have to do this the uncivilized way.” He quickly readied his baton and then charged towards Ladybug, but she flung her yo-yo towards an exposed beam on the ceiling, quickly and effectively swinging away from his attack.

Changing directions and increasing his speed, Chat Noir charged again, but this time he managed to pin her against the wall with his baton and lock her into place. It didn’t take him long to realize how close their face were—he could feel her breaths on his neck. Even though Chat was towering over her, Ladybug looked as confident and unafraid as ever. 

For a split-second, Chat stared into Ladybug’s eyes, subconsciously admiring just how pretty they were. They were a soft shade of blue, almost like bluebells. But apart from the color, he realized something else; they were filled with hatred. For him . And something about Ladybug hating him so much, even though he and pretty much all of Paris knew it already, made his stomach churn.

Chat quickly realized that he had lost focus. Ladybug took his split-second of vulnerability to her advantage, kicking his shin with such force that he buckled over in pain. She ran towards the opposite end of the room. While the two had been engaged in their fight, all of the other people in the bank had taken it as an opportunity to run out of the building.

Chat straightened up from his hunched position, then saw that Ladybug was currently helping the last two people rush out through the doors, including the woman who had been standing at the counter.

In a last-ditch effort, Chat ran towards the counter and jumped right over it. He made his way to the biggest safe and activated his cataclysm. The steel safe began to rust at his touch, turning into nothing more than black ash and revealing a large, heavy bag filled with precious metals, stones, and expensive-looking jewelry inside.

He grabbed the bag of valuables and began to run. Police sirens could be heard from outside, and Chat knew that now was the time for an immediate escape. His ring began to beep in warning. Chat ran towards the back of the building, hoping that the police weren’t already surrounding it. The heavy bag of valuables, however, was slowing him down.

Chat was almost near the back exit when he felt something tugging on the bag. He looked back for a moment and saw that Ladybug’s yo-yo was coiled around it. The police force was gathering up behind her. With a final, forceful pull, she had somehow managed to unleash it from his grip.

Chat scowled as his prize was taken away from him, but he had no time to retrieve it. His ring was beeping again and the police were probably getting into formation.

Now it was time to escape.

 


  

Chat de-transformed in an alleyway that was halfway between his mansion and the bank. Plagg was now outside of his ring, and the first thing he did was cackle in glee at his failure.

“Aaaand the kitty gets crushed by the bug once again! How pathetic!” Plagg chortled.

"Shut up," Adrien said, grabbing the Kwami and shoving him into his jacket. He flinched when Plagg climbed up towards his neck and bit him.

"Plagg, stop it! No cheese for you," he said angrily. Plagg tested Adrien's patience every day. During Adrien's first few days with his ring, Plagg would simply scold him for his actions, but had now resorted to making everyday living hell for Adrien. At home Adrien would try to trap the kwami to prevent him from doing any damage, but he would escape and then make a mess of his room. At school, Plagg would rip up his homework and eat all of his snacks. Plagg wanted nothing more than to punish Adrien for being a villain instead of the hero that he was "supposed" to be.

Adrien walked towards his mansion, pulling his phone out and not even flinching when the many police cars drove past, their sirens blaring in pursuit of the cat burglar. He was angry that he had been thwarted by Ladybug again.

He hadn’t even wanted the money. All he had wanted was another chance to take Ladybug’s miraculous. Getting to see her was just another bonus.

Adrien stood at the entry gate of his home, and was let in after the surveillance camera scanned him. He made his way up the steps and entered the mansion, seeing that Nathalie was waiting for him inside.

"Your father wants to see you in his office," she informed him.

Adrien's heart sunk at this notion, but he turned left and headed towards his father's office anyway. He pushed the door open and saw his father seated at his desk, looking intently at something on his laptop.

"You wanted to see me, father?" Adrien asked.

"Sit down," Gabriel responded, not even bothering to greet him properly.

Adrien sat down in front of his desk, waiting for his father to speak. Gabriel then scrutinized his son, an unreadable expression on his face. "Explain this," he demanded, turning the laptop around and showing him the local news article. The headline blared the caption Chat Noir Strikes Again, Escapes: Ladybug Prevents Another Robbery. The article had only been posted ten minutes ago.

Adrien looked away from his father's gaze, instead focusing on the wall. He couldn't explain. His subconscious reason for these robberies was Ladybug, but he could never admit this to him. He would take away his miraculous in a heartbeat if he ever found out Adrien's deeply suppressed but undeniable feelings for her. It went against his very purpose.

"I was bored," Adrien said indifferently.

At least this response had elicited a reaction. "Adrien, I didn't steal this miraculous so that you could become a pitiful modern-day version of Robin Hood. You have one relatively simple job, and that is to be present during Akuma attacks so you can take Ladybug's miraculous. Why is it so difficult for you to stay away from other crimes, which are nothing more than pointless distractions?" Gabriel glared at Adrien accusingly.

Adrien could faintly feel anger at the pit of his stomach when his father accused him of trying to be "Robin Hood." He was referring to Adrien's tendency to steal and then anonymously donate the money to charity organizations. Of course, that was only on the few occasions he had been successful. After all, what was he supposed to do with all that money? He was already rich, and Adrien couldn't care less about money. He robbed banks not only for the chance to see Ladybug, but for the thrill. The freedom.

Carrying out his father's plans was the cost of his freedom.

It had all started when he was twelve years old, when his mother disappeared. He remembered the day that his father came into his room one morning, after Adrien had spent practically an entire night crying over the loss of his mother. Gabriel had comforted him, and then made an unusual statement.

"Shh, stop crying. Now look at me," Gabriel said, while he held his son in his arms. Adrien sniffled, his eyes red and puffy from the tears.

"Do you want to help me get your mother back?" Gabriel asked him gently.

Adrien looked at him, wide-eyed at the idea that he could do something to help. He nodded his head as a yes.

Gabriel turned and picked up a black and red hexagon-shaped box that he had brought with him into Adrien's room. He opened the box and let Adrien see the black ring that was inside.

Adrien reached out to pick it up, but Gabriel closed it before he could even touch it.

"Not yet, my son. You are not old enough. For now, you will begin fencing lessons with some of the best instructors in France. You will also begin Taekwondo lessons at the end of this week."

Adrien looked at his father with a confused expression on his face. He wasn't sure how fighting lessons could possibly help get his mother back, and his father was being awfully vague.

"You will understand when it's time. If you want your mother back, you will listen to everything I say from now on. Do you understand, Adrien?"

Adrien agreed hesitantly, but couldn't understand why his father was being so cryptic. Why was the ring such a big deal? How could a piece of jewelry possibly help him get his mother back?

Gabriel had been training him for this for years, but Adrien had grown sick of how controlling his father had become after his mother's disappearance. When he had told Adrien to do everything he said, Adrien didn't realize how literal he was being. He began to fight back with his words, then half-assed things just to get a rise out of his father.

Then, when Adrien had turned 15 last year and discovered the full extent of his father's plans, learned what a kwami was and what he would be doing, he took it as an opportunity to finally gain the freedom that he felt he deserved. Adrien agreed to all of Gabriel's terms, but on one condition: he would be allowed to go to public school.

Adrien vividly remembered the face that his father made at his request. Public school? Out of all the things he could have asked for, why that ? Gabriel grudgingly obliged, but threatened to pull him out of school if he caused any trouble. Adrien had longed to interact with other people his age, and was sick of spending his life enclosed within the cold, dark walls of his mansion home. The only friend he was allowed to have for his entire life had been Chloe, the mayor's daughter, but only because his father was on close terms with the mayor.

Of course, Adrien being allowed to rob banks had never been part of the deal, which was why he was currently sitting in his father's office.

Gabriel sighed, eyeing his son with a weary expression. "You need to focus on the task I have given you. I have entrusted you with a great power, and that power comes with great responsibility."

Adrien couldn't help but scowl. "And that 'responsibility' is just doing whatever you tell me to do, right?"

"Control your tongue," Gabriel replied curtly. He still looked calm and collected, but his eyes narrowed at Adrien's rudeness. "I hope my words made it through your thick head. Additionally, I've scheduled two more photoshoots for this weekend. I thought I should inform you in advance."

"Perfect. Can't wait," Adrien said bitterly, and then stood up to leave. "Oh, and another thing—can you maybe not cause an Akuma when I'm at school? Ditching class isn't an easy thing to do."

Gabriel looked indifferent. "You know I have a tight schedule, Adrien. I can't afford to waste any free time, even if it's a slight inconvenience to you. Also remember that it wouldn't be a problem if you were being homeschooled."

Adrien should have expected that his father wouldn't care. He didn't say anything else as he left his father's office, wanting nothing more than to just curl up in bed and sleep, but knowing that he couldn't with all the tasks that were expected of him. He wondered what life would be like if he could just do whatever his heart desired. To not have a father who controlled every aspect of his life. To be the person he wanted to be, to know what it was like to have the freedom to make his own choices.

But deep down he knew that he would never truly be free. His father would make sure of that, he thought bitterly.

 


 

Marinette was exhausted after facing off against Chat Noir at the bank. She leaned back against her chair in front of her computer, desperately wishing for just one weekend where she didn’t have to deal with that stupid cat and his seemingly random crimes.

Dealing with Akuma attacks was difficult enough, but these bank robberies that Chat had developed a habit of were really starting to get under her skin. All she had wanted was a peaceful Sunday for her to work on her designs, but of course he had to ruin that for her too.

It was understatement to just say that she hated him.

Chat Noir was the bane of her existence. Growing up, Marinette’s parents had always reminded her to see the good in everyone and not to judge others. Chat was the exception. There was no way she could see the good in someone so reprehensible.

And yet sometimes he had the audacity to flirt with her when they were fighting. She was convinced that it was some sort of manipulative mind game. What other explanation could there be? It just made him even more infuriating, if possible.

“He had me pushed against a wall, Tikki, and he was staring into my eyes. It was so weird and disgusting,” Marinette recounted, fidgeting with her pencil. 

“Maybe he’s in love with you,” Tikki piped unhelpfully.

“Oh my God, stop,” Marinette groaned, repulsed at the very thought. It would explain a few of his actions, but she refused to dwell on that unpleasant idea.

Besides, it was impossible; nobody fell in love with their enemy, of all people.

Marinette’s phone buzzed on her desk. She picked it up and looked at the screen, seeing that Alya had sent her a text.

Alya: New photoshoot pics! Thought you might be interested ;)

Marinette tapped on the link that Alya had sent her and eagerly looked at the pictures. Her excuse to Alya was that she simply admired Gabriel Agreste’s designs—which she truly did.

Clearly, Alya didn’t buy it, and was rightly convinced that Marinette just wanted another excuse to “ogle” at her crush.

“That suit,” Marinette gasped, looking at a particularly attractive picture of Adrien wearing a crisp white suit from his father’s new formal fashion line.

“Let me guess...you’re looking at pictures of Adrien, aren’t you?” Tikki said wearily. Marinette’s kwami knew her too well.

“Maybe,” she said, grinning like the lovestruck 16 year-old that she was.

“You know, Marinette, your crush on Adrien isn’t very healthy...perhaps you should consider some other boys instead…?” Tikki suggested. 

“What?” Marinette demanded, somewhat offended at what Tikki was suggesting. “Other boys? What’s wrong with Adrien?”

“Nothing, nothing!” Tikki said nervously. “I just thought I would offer some advice.”

“Well, I don’t need it,” Marinette said dismissively. “Adrien is perfect for me. You know, I’ve been stuttering a lot less around him lately.”

“That’s great, Marinette,” Tikki said lightly, wishing there was some way to tell her that Adrien was not, in fact, who she thought he was.

Maybe I’m wrong about Adrien, Tikki thought doubtfully. But her suspicions were seldom wrong.