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The Swimsuit Seduction

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Chat Noir knew Ladybug would never let him live this down. It was so embarrassing! Not only had he been captured, they'd used coconuts and a volleyball net to do it.

Coconuts and volleyball!

Just an hour ago as Adrien, he’d been quietly taking a test and minding his own business. He had an out town modelling job that would last for several days, so he’d asked to take the test early. They’d set him up in a private room and shut the door.

When the heat suddenly kicked on full blast, not even the early February snowstorm howling mournfully outside could chill the room enough to keep him from sweating through his shirt. Uncomfortable and annoyed, he’d finished the test and opened the door, only to see students running through the hall wearing swimsuits instead of sweaters. They were strangely silent as they ran, with smiles that looked a tad too wide to be cheerful and strangely dull eyes. It seemed like Hawk Moth’s latest creation had taken over his high school and somehow bespelled the student body.

His suspicions were confirmed a moment later when the loudspeaker kicked on with the discordant strum of a ukulele. “Hello all my little dudes and beddies! This is Beach Party!” announced an annoyingly peppy female voice. “Since my beach vacation and party were stolen from me, I’m taking over this school as my personal island paradise with Hawk Moth as my sugar daddy sponsor. It’s swim party time and this is my manifesto.”

After informing everyone that swimsuits were mandatory and that they were all extremely lucky to be invited to her super special beach volleyball tournament, luau, and pool party, she added, “On a final note, I owe my sugar daddy a teensy little favor. If anyone knows or sees Ladybug or Chat Noir party crashing, grab them for me. We have to give their jewelry to Hawk Moth, but, you know, Beach Party is busy with more important things and I hate being made to do anything, so you guys have to grab them for me.”

Chat looked at the loud speaker askance. Beach Party sounded like a cross between a badly dubbed American movie and a spoiled beach bimbo. He was surprised that Hawk Moth had chosen someone so petulant and lazy, not that he was complaining. She’d probably be a piece of cake to defeat, he’d thought at the time. Ladybug would appreciate fighting in the heat too. Like her namesake, Ladybug hated cold weather.

“Now remember,” Beach Party said in a syrupy voice, and suddenly a discordant chorus of voices joined her to creepily proclaim, “The party planner makes the rules.” Her solo voice concluded, “This is Beach Party, your hostess with the mostest, signing off!” Then the speaker went silent.

Rolling his eyes, he woke up Plagg from his nap inside his pocket and suited up into Chat Noir. Although his suit breathed much better than real leather, it still felt uncomfortably hot with the school heaters on full blast. At least he'd get to see Ladybug today, he consoled himself as he wiped away a bead of sweat.

Before leaving the room, he made sure to swing by his desk and tuck the lucky pink “test acing” pencil Marinette had lent him back into his bag. He didn't want to lose it. She’d practically forced him to borrow it that morning, stuttering yet stubbornly refusing to let him leave without it. It was rare that she reverted to stuttering anymore after almost three years of friendship, and he still hadn’t figured out what brought on the behavior, but he didn’t mind too much. It was just Marinette.

As soon as he’d given in and taken the lucky pink pencil with a helpless smile, Alya had popped up out of nowhere by his side. Smirking at his jump, she’d pointed a finger at him to say, “But don’t forget to personally return it as soon as you’re done, right Marinette? She’s going to need it with Valentine’s Day coming up next week.”

Marinette’s pale skin had turned a most charming shade of pink. She’d mumbled something incomprehensible and looked away. “I always take care of lucky things,” he’d promised, barely keeping himself from giving her a cheeky wink at his inside joke.

Chat Noir would have winked at her anyways, but Adrien had to act more controlled. Adrien had to put on a good front to represent his father’s company and reputation to the wider world. Sometimes he questioned whether that really needed to include his friends, but it was hard to break years of training with no mask to hide behind. As Chat, his actions didn’t reflect on anyone but himself.

He'd been looking forward to seeing another cute pink blush on Marinette’s face when he gave her pencil back. Ladybug owned his heart, but he couldn't deny that sweet Marinette held a special place in his affections. Although she still didn't talk to Adrien with the teasing ease she addressed Chat Noir, they'd become good friends over the last few years. He didn't know the source of her occasional insecurity when it came to talking to him as Adrien, but he'd made it a project for senior year to get her to treat both his sides with the same sweet sass and ease.  It wasn't like hanging out with her was ever a hardship and her blushes really were adorable. Nevertheless, bit by bit, he was wearing Marinette’s nervousness down.

After securing the precious pink pencil in his bag, he tucked it into a safe corner and then ran out into the hall. Unfortunately, he didn't get very far. Brainwashed teenagers in bikinis and swimming trunks had swarmed out from the classroom doors and pinned him in a narrow hallway. Because they were victims themselves, he couldn’t actually retaliate or defend himself with his full strength.

They’d painfully pelted him from all sides with hard coconuts. Dodging the slap of a wet beach towel, Chat had slipped in a puddle of coconut milk and gone down. He jumped to his feet almost immediately, but before he could escape the crowd, a beach volleyball net caught him mid-leap and took him down in a tangle of limbs and rope.

After dragging his netted body across the floor, still flopping determinedly, and into the guidance councilor’s office, they’d heaved him into a sturdy chair. Before he could twist away, they flipped off the net and tied him down. Since they were using flowered leis, he initially wasn’t too worried about escape. But then he saw that the delicate island flowers were attached to steel cables.

Even without the net holding him down, he could barely move with his arms chained behind the chair back and each ankle practically welded to a leg of the chair. No amount of struggling had loosened the bonds. It merely released a cloud of exotic perfume into the air. Chat could feel the bruises forming beneath his suit, practically ripping open the skin of his wrist and ankles and he strained to get free.

Still, Chat wasn’t feeling afraid, just embarrassed. Ladybug would never let him live this down. He’d be in for coconut and a volleyball jokes for weeks.

“Good job, dudes,” greeted the akumatized Beach Party as she strutted into the room. She had fake platinum blond hair held out of her face by a large pair of sunglasses, a plastic hula skirt around her waist, a cliché touristy conch shell necklace, and a bikini top with the American flag on one breast and the French flag on the other.

However, instead of breasts she actually had large striped beach balls. Seeing him staring, she smirked, pulled out a tube from nowhere, and blew into it, inflating them even larger. Nonplussed, he merely stared at her outré actions.

"I know you want me, bruh,” she purred, blowing him a kiss.

Horrified that she’d actually try to kiss him, Chat reared back in his chair and flattened his ears to his head. Unfortunately his arms still wouldn’t budge from their bonds. He hated being tied up by bad guys.

“Now, now, no need to look so testy," she scolded. "I’m not trying to harsh your mello. You're still invited to the party as long as you produce your plus one for the luau.” Leaning forward, she asked pointedly, “Just where is Ladybug, by the way?"

Smirking at her, he forcefully relaxed back into his chair and lifted an eyebrow insultingly. "Oh, she'll be here to catch you soon, hula girl. Don't worry."

"The name’s Beach Party, lolo," she snapped. Then she breathed in deeply through her nose before asking, "What's Ladybug's real name, then, hmm?"

When Chat merely stared and smirked, she huffed out a breath and flipped her bleached blond hair over her shoulder. "Ugh, I hate it when people are late to my parties," she sulked.

Tapping a hot pink fingernail to her matching lipstick, she stared at him thoughtfully for a moment before starting to smile wickedly. Giggling to herself, she spun in place and went to the open door. "Where are my beautiful Beddies? Get in here, girls," she ordered.

"The party planner makes the rules," Chat heard voices chorus before a line of his female classmates marched into the room. The girls lined up along the wall. Instead of their normal clothes, each wore a swimsuit.

When he recognized the blank-faced, bespelled Alya in the middle of the line, he felt his jaw clench with anger. Instead of wearing her plaid shirt and jeans from this morning, she’d ended up in high-waisted purple bikini bottoms topped by an orange and white houndstooth-patterned halter. At least she wasn’t Lady Wifi again, but he still felt awful. Alya wasn’t just a classmate anymore; she was one of his few friends. His stomach boiled to see her bespelled again. 

For a second she met Chat’s eyes and curiosity sparked in her gaze, but seconds later it seeped away, leaving her eyes heavy-lidded and dull. It looked plain wrong. Alya was a spitfire, not this muted shell transformed with magic. The rest of the girls looked the same, drained of life and will, smiling on command but not really feeling it.

Narrowing his eyes at Beach Party, he probed, "What's the point of this?"

"Just a minute, sheesh, you're so impatient," she complained. "Are you going to tell me who Ladybug really is or what?"

"Not on your life," he snorted. Even if he did know, which he didn't, he'd never betray Ladybug. He'd rather die first.

"That's what you say now," she rolled her eyes in disbelief and waved away his words. “You’re still just a guy under those ears and tail, and tomcats are tomcats in or out of fur.”

Turning back to the girls, she ordered, "Go find some hot studs to set up a surf competition and send the next batch in."

Alya and the other girls filed out, replaced by a new set. He only recognized one or two of them from his senior class. Chat wasn't sure what this was supposed to prove. Beach Party closely watched his face as he looked them over, but when he glanced back at her in confusion, she merely grunted with dissatisfaction.

"Next!" she snapped. "Go build sandcastles or something." Raising a skeptical eyebrow, he wondered where she expected the girls to find sand.

He was looking to the side when then the next group came in, so when he saw a flash of red and black in the corner of his eye, his heart leapt. Whipping his head around, he expected to see Ladybug in her suit, soaring in to the rescue. However, it wasn't Ladybug.

It was Marinette in a ladybug patterned swimsuit.

Chat’s heart stuttered. Face flaming and eyes going wide, he couldn't help drinking in the sight of so much creamy skin set off by her vintage-looking swimsuit. Like Ladybug's suit, it was bright red and covered in black polka dots. He would have expected pink from Marinette, but couldn't really nitpick the red considering the way his mouth had gone dry at the sight of her.

In fact, Marinette reminded him of a '50s pinup model, both sexy and sweet. The red polka dot suit cut low across her hips and curved up her waist to end in a sweetheart neckline, with the straps tying behind her neck in a flirty red bow. However, the classic silhouette had been updated by adding an enticing triangular cutout between the swell of her breasts, threaded with a red ribbon. The ribbon fluttered as she moved, drawing his attention to the shadowed cleft like a bull teased by a red cape. Swallowing hard, Chat wrenched his eyes away and tried to remember how to breathe. 

"Perfect," chirped Beach Party, clapping her hands happily. "Everyone can go back to enjoying the waves now." Slipping her large sunglasses down over her eyes, she turned to go with a rustle of her hula skirt.

All the girls lined up to follow her when abruptly she stopped in the doorway. Pouting, she pushed her glasses up again. "Wait, I almost forgot the follow through. All but you, red," she pointed at Marinette. "I have plans for you."

For a second life seemed to spark in Marinette's eyes. She flicked her blue eyes between Beach Party and Chat, looking frustrated.

Beach Party must have noticed too, for her eyes narrowed with anger. "Do you have a problem with that, girlie?" she breathed threateningly, suddenly holding a coconut drink with a fuchsia paper umbrella in one hand, poised as if to throw. The spokes on the umbrella looked unnaturally sharp and the drink thick and syrupy.

Marinette's features twitched and then smoothed. "The party planner makes the rules," she said in a monotonous tone of voice.

"Exactly," Beach Party sniffed. "Now come ‘ere, beach blanket bimbo, I have uses for you," she self-importantly gestured Marinette into the hall.

Chat strained his ears to hear Beach Party’s voice as the door slowly swung closed. Thank goodness for slow school hinges. "I'm bored of hanging around this party pooper,” the blond complained. “I gotta go make my party bigger and more bodacious and get ready for Ladybug to show up, not to mention work on my tan, but I don’t feel like finding Ladybug myself no matter what that nag Hawk Moth says because, you know, that sounds like work and I've got a party to oversee and cute boys to make out with, so your orders are-," her words cut off at the door finally clicked shut.

Growling with frustration, Chat began twisting his arms again with renewed fervor, trying to get enough slack to slip a clawed fingertip up and somehow cut them. He didn't know how Party Planner intended on using Marinette, but whatever it was, he didn't like it. If Marinette came to harm because of this, Party Planner was going to regret it. He’d deflate her plans, one way or another.

He couldn’t believe his good luck when a minute later, the door opened and Marinette walked in. The door shut softly behind her. Her usually sparkling blue eyes still looked slightly muted, but the rest of her face was mobile. Marinette met his eyes and sent him a flirtatious wink.

Chat blinked in surprise. A trickle of sweat wound down his cheek.

Meeting his eyes confidently, Marinette teased. "What a catastrophe. You look well and truly collared this time, my little kitty cat."

Chat laughed despite his tension. "A verbal attack right off the bat. How cruel! Take pity and unleash this poor stray, Princess." He couldn't keep help but grin at their exchange of puns. He wished she'd talk to Adrien like this too, but to be fair, he didn't exactly let himself go all out as Adrien the way he did as Chat. 

"I'm not cruel, Chaton, but neither are you pitiful," Marinette purred as she leaned forward and flicked the golden bell at his throat with a fingernail. The sound rang heavily, lingering in the warm air. "Let me prove it to you," she said with a mysterious smile curved her pink lips.

Chat swallowed hard as she came closer. "Marinette?" his voice ended in a high-pitched squeak as she straddled his legs and plopped down into his lap, pressing her bare skin and red polka-dots flush against his black cat suit. An explosion went off in his brain.

What was she doing?

Tilting her head to the side, Marinette cupped his face from mere inches away and searched his eyes. "People don't touch you enough. I've always thought so," she mused.

Chat's eyes widened. He wanted to look away, but with the way she held his face, he couldn’t. His stomach turned over uncomfortably.

"Sometimes your beautiful green eyes look so lonely, it breaks my heart," she whispered achingly, tracing unsteady fingers around the edges of his mask. Closing his eyes, Chat swallowed hard and tried to keep his breathing steady.

Warm breath puffed against his face. "I wish I could make it better. I wish I was braver when it came to you." Her hands slipped down over his cheeks to carefully cup the back of his neck, as if he was something precious and fragile.

His heart turned over and he couldn't suppress a vulnerable gasp.

Soft lips pressed against each of his closed eyelids like a benediction, sending quakes through his soul. They lingered on his brow for a breath-stealing moment. Then her lips trailed over to his temple and slid down his cheek in a series of gentle kisses.

When her lips lifted, Chat forced himself to open his eyes. He didn't know what to say. The intimacy created by her words and actions made him feel vulnerable and unbalanced.

Chat tried to look away from her face, to find something to distract the whirl of his thoughts, but that just brought her bare arms and shoulders into view. She had the lithe but strong body of a gymnast or dancer. Considering how he struggled sometimes to keep to his model diet, he found himself impressed considering the constant temptation living above a bakery must entail.

Realizing the direction of his thoughts, he cursed himself silently. Now wasn’t the time to get distracted. Yet he'd always had a thing for strong women, so the view wasn't helping him regain his equilibrium at all.

Instead, it merely reminded him that a beautiful girl was currently sitting on his lap. She wasn’t just some model posing with him for a camera either. He knew how to act in those situations. No, this gorgeous girl was Marinette and they were all alone together in this little room. He felt his mood shift dangerously.

Drawing her hands down his neck, Marinette flicked his bell again with her thumb. It rang sweetly in the empty room. She giggled and he couldn't help but look back at her face.

"You're always so silent when you move that sometimes I've wondered if this bell really had a clapper." She thumbed it again, and then sent him a sly wink at its chime. "It's not just the cat who's curious."

Marinette was so cute it was killing him. He tried to shift beneath her, but then her sweet bottom pressed against his lap dangerously. Chat froze.

"Your face is turning red, you know," Marinette observed innocuously, "and you're sweating. You must be hot in here with the temperatures set for beach weather."

Then the innocence on her face slid into pure sin. "Let me help you with that," she said huskily, carefully grasping his golden bell in her fingertips and drawing the zipper down to the middle of his chest. The sound of the zipper was loud in the quiet room. 

“What are you doing?” he asked, his voice trailing up in pitch as she spread the fabric open and smoothed her hands across his bare skin. He could feel his muscles twitching in shocked pleasure as her fingertips traced a line back up to the now bare hollow of his throat.

Then Marinette's exploring fingers paused on the edge of a nasty, purpling bruise on his shoulder from a particularly hard coconut. Her flirtatious smile faltered. "I'm sorry you got hurt," she sighed. Then she looked up at him with liquid blue eyes and blushed at whatever she read in his expression, shifting nervously on his lap.

Chat barely suppressed a whimper. “What are you doing,” he asked again, his voice unconsciously dropping in register and going husky.

Dropping her bright blue eyes, Marinette bit her lip. Her fingers curled nervously around a strand of her hair as she stuttered, “I-I-I have to, my orders say I have to do what- whatever it takes to- to make you happy enough to-,” then she abruptly stopped. Her nervous fingers relaxed and dropped to her lap.

As he watched, Marinette's nervousness smoothed away into a drowsy confidence. Chat barely kept himself from hissing a curse as he realized that it was the magic pulling her under again. She must have been fighting through it to tell him something important, but what?

Then Marinette floored him by purring, “What am I doing? I’ll tell you if it makes you happy. I’m seducing you, ma petite minou.”

Chat’s face burst into flame as his mouth dropped open. That was happening a lot today. Usually he felt pretty confident as Chat Noir, but with Marinette perched on his lap, he felt completely out of his depth. He should be resisting this somehow. It would be the right thing to do.

Leaning down, Marinette placed feather soft kisses along the edges of his bruise, working her way up to lick across the hollow of his neck. Then she dragged firm lips up the side of throat. Touching him like that, kissing him so devastatingly, and using the nicknames most favored by his Ladybug… his principles were crumbling fast.

“You- you don’t have to do that,” he tilted his head back and forced the words out of numb lips.

“Of course I do. The party planner makes the rules. I have to obey Beach Party and all of her orders,” Marinette explained simply, drifting her hands along his bared skin.

Chat struggled to stay focused. This was wrong. Marinette had no choice in this. She'd said as much herself.

Then she dragged her teeth along the line of his jaw. "You need to stop, Marinette," he protested in a strangled voice.

Marinette only paused long enough to say, "Nope," popping the ‘p’ sound against his skin, before going back to her maddening exploration of his chin.

Panting, he argued, "This isn't you. You've never wanted to kiss me before. Think about it!"

When Marinette pulled back, he thought he'd finally won, but then she snorted and shook her head at him chidingly. "Silly cat, I think about kissing you all the time."

His heart thumped hard.

"You were a cute boy to start with, but over the years you've matured into a sexy man. The only reason I haven't kissed you silly before now is because I'm afraid you'll break my heart. I'm afraid I'd disappoint you if you ever really saw the real me." She shrugged and looked away.

Chat frowned, angry at her self-deprecating words. "Don't be ridiculous. I'd be more worried about me disappointing you. You need to give yourself way more credit. You could never disappoint me or anyone else. You're amazing, Marinette: artistic, sweet, compassionate, sassy, and strong. You’re beautiful, inside and out."

He'd barely finished speaking before the woman in his arms surged forward and sealed her mouth against his. At the touch of her lips, the taste of her sweet mouth, he forgot why this had been a bad idea. Tilting back beneath the slick pressure of her mouth, he groaned in surrender. They kissed for what seemed like hours, until he felt half-feral with arousal and desperation at the bonds keeping him from reaching out to touch her back. Rocking up into the weight of her body, he captured her whimper in his mouth and growled demandingly for more.

Unfortunately, as amazing as kissing Marinette felt, he still needed to breathe. Pulling back for a second, he drew in a lungful of air. She dropped her head and panted against his chest. As she snuggled closer, she pressed deliciously against the hardness in his lap. Chat lost his breath again with a grunt and Marinette finally seemed to actually think about where she was sitting.

Going scarlet, she scooted slightly back on his legs. "Oh my goodness," Marinette panted, her hands still wound in his hair and her pupils blown. “I don't remember that happening the last time I kissed you on the lips,” she laughed to herself softly.

“Wait, what?” Chat tried to marshal his scattered wits. “I’ve never kissed you before, Princess. I wouldn’t forget something like that, especially not with you.”

“But you did forget,” she sighed into his chest, “though it wasn’t me.”

Chat’s forehead wrinkled with confusion. “Then you haven't kissed me before?”

Huffing a laugh, she traced the crease between his eyes. “I have. I wouldn’t forget something like that,” her bluebell eyes darkened as she repeated his words, “especially not with you.” She tapped him on the nose and smiled softly. "I do adore you, Chat Noir."

Something in his heart flailed. He was in serious trouble here. But what was she talking about? He needed to stay calm and collected if he wanted to get out of this, but she was making things hard, very hard. Literally.

Marinette shook her head and looked to the side, licking her lips nervously. “But I’m supposed to be seducing you, not talking about myself. I’ve never done something like this before, but," and suddenly the tension flowed out of her body again, that stupid magic kicking in. He needed to start paying closer attention to when she managed to surface from the compulsion enough to control her words.

While he mentally kicked himself, Marinette reached out and grabbed his bell again, fingering it silently. Then she spoke, the dark, lush tones of her voice yanking his attention firmly in her direction and evoking a bite into a ripe, juicy peach. "I can’t say my mind hasn’t wandered in this direction a time or two in the dark of night, unable to sleep all alone in my bed.” Her fingers tugged on the bell softly but inexorably, silently pulling the zipper along with the trailing tip of her finger down, down, down the sensitized skin of his chest and past his clenching belly until it stopped a mere handbreadth above the bulge in his pants.

The room had emptied of air. Nothing existed but the electric drag of her finger now tracing up and down the pale line of hair arrowing down from his belly button to the open v of fabric. “We should probably kiss some more first. It wouldn't be a hardship, but part of me just wants to strip you down and pet you all over like a good little pussycat deserves.”

Chat choked on nothing as his throat closed down. His hands jerked in their bonds, desperate to rise up and touch the woman teasing him so desperately. The flower’s exotic perfume thickened the air. Judging by the minxish smirk on Marinette’s face, she felt pleased by the effect of her words.

Giving a husky laugh, she nevertheless removed her teasing fingers and reclaimed his lips, licking into his gasping mouth.  Ravenous for her taste, he widened his lips and pressed back into the kiss, flicking his tongue into the hot, slick cavern of her mouth and drawing out a moan. Marinette melted against him, trapping her hands flat between their surging bodies.

The abrupt sound of a ukulele blasting from the speakers made both of them jump. Their teeth clicked together painfully and Marinette drew back. The brief announcement about a pig roast in the biology room finally roused him away from his animal instincts and back to his duty.

Beach Party. Hawk Moth. Superhero. Right.

Chat had to escape. Marinette was a victim here too. He couldn’t take advantage of her bespelled state, no matter how she intended to take advantage of him (or how much he found himself not minding as long as she just kept touching and kissing him like that).

Reluctantly he turned his head to the side, breathing hard. He had to get a hold of himself. No matter his costume, he really was a man, not a randy cat. Marinette took his withdrawal with a graceful sigh, merely shifting to nibble along the hinge of his jaw and down the tendon of his throat.

“You need to s-stop. Ladybug is going to be here soon to rescue me, rescue us,” he said forcefully, struggling to speak lucidly as her teeth abruptly nipped sharply, followed by the soothing stroke of her tongue, dropping to swirl across his clavicle. The muscles in his stomach contracted sharply. He barely resisted the urge to lean back into the press of her mouth and just let himself wallow in being a tom cat.

“No, she won’t,” Marinette breathed against his shoulder softly with a catch in her voice. Her breath moving across his wet skin made him shiver. “She can’t even save herself.”

“W-what does that mean?” Chat asked with only a slight stutter. Marinette leaned back. The helpless expression on her face tugged at his heartstrings.

Digging his mind out of his pants and back to his duty, Chat dipped his head and looked her gently in the eyes, “What’s going on, Princess? Why were you ordered to seduce me?”

The girl on his lap blinked, helplessness dropping away as she became the confident seductress once more. Unfortunately for him, the confidence was just as sexy as her vulnerability. “Beach Party wants you to tell me Ladybug’s secret identity, Kitten,” she said chidingly, as if the answer were obvious. She trailed her fingers up and down his neck, still slick from her mouth. Her fingertips played with the edge of his jumpsuit for a moment before slipping inside.

Nevertheless, despite the tingles caused by her touch, her words acted like a cup of water in Chat’s face. “It won’t work,” he shook his head sharply, trying to wake up his wits.

“I know,” Marinette sighed, shifting her weight to rub unfairly across his lap again. Her fingers snuck even farther inside his clothes, trailing down his sides and sliding onto the clenching, sweaty muscles of his back. She gently scratched her fingernails up and down his skin. It felt delicious.

Although he failed to suppress a whimper at her touch, Chat still managed to gasp out, “I’d never betray Ladybug.”

Rising up, Marinette thankfully slipped her hands out of his clothes and balanced them on his shoulders. He refused to acknowledge the pang at the loss of her hot little hands on his back or the sweet press of her bottom.

This is better, he told himself insistently. Maybe this way he could actually think. Though admittedly, seeing her red swimsuit up close with its small black dots reminiscent of Ladybug’s jumpsuit didn’t help his self-control any either.

In fact, Marinette’s new position put her rounded breasts right in front of his face, along with that unfair triangular cutout on her chest. He tried not to stare at the hint of shadowy cleavage and the plump undersides of her breasts. His willpower failed.

Then Marinette leaned forward and for a split second her firm nipple dragged across his cheek. Chat's eyes slammed shut with a defeated whimper. Marinette felt and smelled amazing. The urge to slip his tongue into that little cutout on her chest and taste the salt of her skin pounded through him.

Before his could act on his urges, she spoke. “I know you wouldn’t betray her, Chaton,” she soothed, kissing him between his cat ears before rubbing the side of her face against his head. Then she dropped a series of kisses down the side of his face, contrasting the heat of her mouth with the cool slide of her earring along the side of his nose.

Chat’s nose tingled strangely as she leaned back. He barely suppressed a sneeze as she flicked his nose in a strangely familiar gesture. “My little kitty cat couldn’t betray Ladybug, not even under torture,” she murmured with a strange twitch of her lips.

Chat blinked lust-clouded eyes and tilted his head. “What makes you say that?” he asked, just to be contrary. He needed to get her talking so she stopped kissing him so much. He couldn’t think with her lips on his skin.

“Because you don’t even know who she is, silly,” Marinette cupped his face fondly. “She doesn’t know your real identity either.” Then she kissed his nose again. “Ladybug wants to know, but she’s scared. It could make things worse instead of better. She hates not being in control, not knowing what would happen.”

“How do you know that?” Chat asked suspiciously, trying desperately to focus on her words.

“That’s a secret,” she winked, tapping her ear. “Now, where was I? That’s right, I was just trying to decide whether to kiss you more or try to take off your clothes. What would make you happier do you think?” she breathed against his mouth.

“Wait, wait, stop,” Chat blurted, leaning back as much as he could with her straddling him in the chair. “If you know I don’t know Ladybug’s identity, why are you still trying to seduce me?”

She blinked at him innocently. “Because I still have to obey all my orders from Beach Party. The party planner makes the rules.” A finger traced his lips.

Gulping, Chat forced himself to ignore the magic of her fingertips trying to lull him into a purring puddle. “And- and what are your orders exactly?” He demanded, twisting his head to the side to avoid her hand, trying to resist the way her touch drained his willpower.

Marinette’s hands slid down to rest quietly on his shoulders. She appeared to be struggling with herself for a moment. “I'm to seduce you with my feminine wiles and," her words slowed, pronounced with weight, "do whatever I have to do to make you happy enough to tell me who Ladybug is.” Her eyes popped open wide and met his with a gleam of excitement.

Why was she so excited? He wondered, examining what she’d just said. Was she trying to tell him something? What was he missing?

At his baffled silence, she sighed. He practically felt the magic rise up over her will again, smothering the alert gleam in her blue eyes. Marinette leaned forward and began nibbling on his collarbone again. The feeling arrowed straight down to his lower belly, though accompanied by a renewed pang of discomfort at the enslavement of her will and the question of just how willing she really was, despite her earlier words hinting that she’d thought about this before.

Panting, he struggled to think. Then he realized that she’d mentioned some of those same words earlier, when she'd first plopped down into his lap. She had orders to “make him happy.”

Huh.

“Marinette? Princess? Marinette!” he snapped desperately, finally getting her to lift her mouth up from the descending path of sin her lips had been travelling down his chest and towards his quivering belly.

“What?” she inquired grumpily, not raising her hungry eyes from his belly button.

“It would make me very happy if you stood up,” he said stridently, trying not to pant at how close her mouth hovered to his eager lap.

Eyebrows rising skeptically, she nevertheless slid back off his legs and stood before him. His black belt tail, which at some point had wrapped possessively around the curve of her upper thigh, slowly slithered down off her skin.

Cocking a hand on one polka dot clad hip, she trailed her eyes down from his sweaty, heaving chest to the bulge between his legs “Are you sure me being all the way over here really makes you happy?”

“Yes, absolutely,” Chat asserted, lying through his teeth for the greater good.

Her lips formed a pout, a look on Marinette’s face that he’d love to explore at some other, more appropriate moment. Then her mouth quirked skeptically. “It sure doesn’t look like it to me.” She started sliding closer again.

“Well, it does! Make me happy!" Chat gulped a breath and brought his voice under control. "I know you want to follow your orders from Beach Party to the letter. Do you know what would make me feel even happier? What would really seduce me?” he purred, looking up at her through his lashes.

Lips parting, she leaned forward. “What? Tell me.”

“Untie me,” he suggested, sending her a leer for good measure.

Marinette blinked. White teeth slipped out to nibble on those perfectly pink lips that had just been mouthing all over his body. “I-I don’t know if that’s what Beach Party intended… are you sure that’s what would make you feel seduced?”

Chat gave her a steamy look. “There’s nothing sexier than being untied by a beautiful woman, but if you don’t want to follow your orders…,” he let his voice trail off regretfully.

“No, no,” Marinette said, blinking slowly as if trying to wake from a fog. She moved around behind him, “The party planner makes the rules and she ordered me to make you happy. I just thought it was being tied up, not being untied that turned certain men on, but… I am supposed to seduce you, to make you happy so you’ll talk. I follow my orders.”

A triumphant huff escaped from Chat Noir’s throat as he felt the flowered steel bands around his ankles and wrists finally loosen. Vaulting up out of the chair, he flicked himself free of the trailing flowered cables and twisted around to grab Marinette by the wrist in case she thought to run off and tattle.

Eyes wide in shock and dawning doubt, she stared up into his face.  “Did that n-not m-make you happy?” she stuttered, chewing on her lip again.

“Indeed, I’m feeling purr-sitively seduced, Princess,” he said with a toothy smile, feeling the rapid tattoo of her pulse through the fabric of his gloves. Having use of his hands again felt glorious. If he had the time, and she wasn't under a magical compulsion, oh the things he would do with her.

Marinette took a step back nervously at the heat in his gaze, until she fetched up against the wall. She tried to slide sideways out of his hold, but Chat banged a hand flat onto the wall next to her, making her jump as he caged her in. He wouldn’t hurt her, but he wasn’t above scaring her just a little bit by turning the tables.

Leaning forward, finally in control, he dropped his head to stare straight into her eyes and asked, “Now, my sweet, what makes you think Ladybug isn’t coming, hmm?”

Blue eyes sparking above her pinking cheeks, she looked away uncomfortably. “I can’t say. It’s a secret.”

“But there’s nothing sexier than sharing secrets,” he breathed against her ear, letting his lips brush lightly over her skin, only a hairsbreadth away from tracing her red, polka dot earring with his tongue. She shivered, no longer so confident without him tied up at her mercy. “Come on,” he whispered, “seduce me, Mar-i-nette.”

“O-oh, b-but,” she protested weakly, shivering as he dragged his nose down her throat. She smelled like a decadent strawberry peach parfait, like a forbidden dessert that had always been just out of reach until now. His body clamored for him to take a bite, to claim it, but he forced himself to draw back. He needed answers about Ladybug, but he also needed to remember that Marinette was bespelled, a victim. Chat shouldn’t take advantage of her.

“Don’t let curiosity kill this cat. You have your orders to make me happy,” he purred. “Tell me, Princess, why isn’t Ladybug coming?”

Staring at his chest, she admitted in a strained voice, “Beach Party captured her already.” Then she bit her lip and gnawed stressfully.

The sweat on Chat’s skin turned ice cold.  Keeping his voice level, he put his thumb on her abused bottom lip and gently tugged it away from her teeth. Then he prompted, “Go on, I’m falling under the power of your seduction with every word that falls from your lips. I don’t understand why Beach Party ordered you to seduce me if she already has Ladybug, but I bet you know. Make me a happy man. Tell me more.”

Marinette wrapped her arm around her waist and curled into it. “Beach Party hasn’t realized she has Ladybug yet.”

“Why not,” Chat crooned dangerously, hanging on her every word.

Chest heaving almost out of her swimsuit with the force of her breathing, Marinette’s charcoal lashes flattened on her freckled cheeks. Then she whispered, “Because when Beach Party burst into the gym, Ladybug got magicked with everyone else. No one recognized Ladybug in the sea of swimsuited minions, especially without her mask and suit. She blended in.”

Chat felt his world tilt sideways. He looked again at Marinette, more specifically at her earrings: red with black polka dots. Those intimately familiar ladybug earrings. Those ladybug earrings on his friend, a girl he’d sat next to without realizing it for years, the girl he’d tried not to crush on for years. The girl who’d been sitting in his lap running her hands and lips all over his body just minutes ago. The same earrings worn by his Ladybug, his superhero partner and the love of his life.

“If no one recognized her, then how do you know all that,” he asked with a broken voice, though he felt the answer already sweeping through his bones. 

Angry blue eyes suddenly snapped up to his. “You’re really going to make me say it?”

“I-,” he faltered, desperately wanting to hear it out loud, but knowing that violating her trust even further by using the spell to compel her was a betrayal.

Gritting her teeth, Marinette growled, “Fine. If it will make you happy, you tomcat, I have to do it. Orders are orders. So here. I’m really La-,” Chat smooshed his hand across her lips, muffling her confession.

“I’m sorry, my Lady. You don’t have to say it,” he apologized shamefully, forcing himself to lift off his hands and take a step back so he wasn’t crowding her anymore. “Never mind, I’m happy. You succeeded. Good job.”

Blowing out her breath, Marinette rubbed hard at her eyes with the palms of her hands. Then with a grunt she dropped her fingers and stepping away from the wall. Eyes tight, she gave him a little nod.

Chat found his head spinning. This gorgeous and strong girl was his Ladybug. Ladybug was Marinette, and she was standing in front him.

Abruptly he noticed her skin again. It looked so creamy and he could see so much of it. Chat was used to seeing Ladybug in a skintight outfit that outlined every delectable muscle and curve, but that outfit also covered her skin from toe to fingertip to chin, just like his jumpsuit did.

But in her little vintage swimsuit in red with black spots topped by those bluebell eyes, Ladybug’s identity was obvious. Chat couldn’t help feeling like a man in a desert cresting a dune to find an oasis. His eyes drank in the sight of her freckled shoulders, shadowed cleavage, sturdy arms, smooth legs, and strong fingers.

All bare.

Chat Noir and Ladybug touched regularly. They were partners and friends who’d worked together for years. But always a layer of cloth separated their skin; always the mystery of their true identities stilted their tongues. Now that separation was gone because Ladybug was Marinette and Marinette was Ladybug - was Marinette who’d sat on his lap, was Ladybug who’d rubbed her hands all over his bare chest, was Marinette who’d unzipped his suit and licked her way down his chest, was Ladybug who he’d loved for years, was Marinette who he’d tried not to fall in love with for years.

The cascading revelations proved too much for his poor brain. The world tipped. He couldn’t breathe through the pounding of his heart. Staggering back, Chat collapsed onto the ground and put his head between his knees, trying not to pass out.

“Chat?” he heard her worried voice through the feeling of drowning. “Are you alright, minet?” Her familiar hand rubbed up and down his back as she knelt by his side. “Breathe, you silly kitty, breathe for me.”

For her? Yes. Anything.

Chat forced himself to pull in a breath. Exhale. Then bring in another. Slowly breathing became easier. Finally the room stopped spinning.

Although he’d love to recover from his break down in the arms of the woman hovering by his side, he couldn’t. They still had an akumatized Beach Party to fix and her hoard of swimsuited slaves to free. Opening his eyes, he forced himself to sit up.

“Sorry,” he apologized breathlessly.

Marinette shook her head with a soft look. “That’s okay.” Her hand was still rubbing circles on his back, but he wasn’t going to mention it if she didn’t. Chat had always loved her touches.

“Have you tried suiting up?” he asked.

Marinette grimaced. “Yes, I’ve tried every time I surface from the spell. However, I’m not sure where my kwami is even hiding in this.” She gestured at her skintight swimsuit. “Transforming isn’t working. The more I try, the more the magic clouds my thoughts.”

“You don’t seem to be having any problem thinking clearly right now,” he asked, observing her alert eyes and mobile face.

“That’s because me acting like this makes you happy,” she drawled with annoyance as she gestured at herself. “I haven’t been able to escape her orders. I just got lucky she worded it the way she did and that you finally caught on.”

“I was distracted!” he defended before thinking about what he’d just said. Their eyes met for a stretched out moment as they both thought about just how and by whom he’d been so distracted.

Marinette’s hand dropped from his back as if burned.  He felt his face turn hot. A flush flooded across her cheeks and down her chest to the very edge of her swimsuit, the dark pink even winking at him through the cutout on her chest. Face steaming, he wondered just how far down her blush really went.

Wrenching his eyes away from temptation, he looked down. At the sight of his bare chest, he grabbed his bell and zipped up his suit with manufactured nonchalance. He didn’t have time to relive just how it had gotten open in the first place.

Marinette herself was looking away from him and fiddling nervously with the red ribbon tied above the cutout on her chest, drawing his attention to the firm swells of her breasts. Was she trying to kill him? As a model, he’d seen more than his fair share of bare skin on beautiful women, but nothing had ever flustered or moved him as much as she did in her modest yet flirty swimsuit. How was he supposed to think straight with this much of her luscious skin on display? When she looked so beautiful?

“Say what?” she asked, flustered.

Realizing he’d mumbled his questions out loud, he flushed again but barreled forward. “You have to know you’re gorgeous.”

Marinette squeaked.

It was so cute, but he didn’t have time to savor it right now. “You are, but we can discuss that more later. What if I told you to suit up? That it would make me extremely happy to see Ladybug right now. Would that work?”

“If it makes you happy,” she said hesitantly, furrowing her brow. Seconds later she became enveloped in sparkles. When they faded, the masked and suited Ladybug knelt by his side.

“It worked!” he cheered, kicking down the inappropriate regret at losing sight of all that skin. “Good job, m’Ladybug. You’re free now, right?”

As Ladybug looked at him, her shoulders slowly slumped, bringing attention to her chest and the suit’s new triangular cutout bordered in black, echoing the shape of the swimsuit she’d been wearing. It had never been there before, but the flash of bare skin with everything else so covered was very alluring. He couldn’t help the way his eyes lingered.

Unexpectedly, Ladybug’s hand landed softly on his leg. Soon it began caressing up and down his calf. Chat barely kept his breath from stuttering.

“No, I can still feel the compulsion,” she sighed, looking off as she intimately swirled her fingers across his ankle just inside the edge of his boot. “It’s weaker, but it still makes me want to seduce you and do whatever I have to do to make you happy. My thoughts are a lot slower than usual too, as if it’s a struggle to think about anything but you and Beach Party. I’m trying to think strategy, but my thoughts keep springing back to obeying my orders,” she spat out her final words.

“I’m sorry,” he said earnestly. “I’m trying not to take advantage. I really am.”

Huffing a laugh, Ladybug gave him a sideways smile that made his stomach flip. “I know you are. I trust you, Chaton.”

“Okay, Buginette… Ha! I just realized how appropriate that nickname is now that I know both sides of you: -bug and –nette.” He easily ignored her eye roll.

Then he felt his face light up with unholy glee. “To win this battle, I think our best strategy is to have you be my love slave.” Grinning, he pointed his finger at her and pulled the trigger.

Ladybug looked completely unamused from where she sat across from him. She folded her arms and frowned. “Seriously, Chat?”

“Just kitten,” he laughed, “but only a little bit. You transformed when I ordered you to. From a certain point of view, you even seduced me into revealing Ladybug’s identity. I think we’re making this work for us. Let’s see what else you can do with a little encouragement.”

The teasing smile fell from his lips as he became serious. “You can trust me, m’Lady. I’ll protect you, even from myself.”

Clear blue eyes looked deep into his soul. Her face hovered on the cusp of a decision. Then she firmed her lips and nodded, dropping her hands to her sides and putting herself in his hands, waiting for his next move.

Staring into her eyes, Chat spoke clearly. “It would make me very happy if you called for a Lucky Charm.”

Chat watched as Ladybug nodded and tucked her tongue behind her teeth. Then she… paused. The silence stretched. Her tongue dropped down from her teeth to swipe across her lower lip as her suddenly heavy-lidded gaze slid down from his eyes to caress across his mouth, before sweeping hungrily down his chest.

Sliding onto all fours, Ladybug crawled towards him seductively. “I think I know a better way to make you feel lucky,” she said, back arched, hips swaying, and sin dripping from the provocative curve of her lips. “Let’s make our own luck, cat boy. I’ve been dreaming about your lips for years, you know, wondering if all that flirting was just for show or if it actually meant something, if it was real. If you want a love slave, let’s see if you can put your money where your mouth is and prove you know how to use one,” she challenged boldly, leaning forward to hover across from his lips.

“I’ll put my mouth anywhere you want it,” he promised gutturally, lunging forward to grab her arms and swing her around until he had her back pressed flush to his chest. Then he dropped his head to whisper steamily in her ear, “but first you have to prove to me that you deserve it. Purify the akuma. Then ask me again with no magic in the way. Ask me again and I'll be your love slave.”

Arching back against his body, she rubbed her forehead along the line of his jaw and tempted him, “Or you could just put your mouth on me now. I’ve seen the way you’ve been eyeing the cutout between my breasts, imagining your tongue licking into it, your fingers exploring.”

“Later, I promise,” he rumbled huskily, unable to keep himself from pressing an open-mouthed kiss to her temple. “But to impress me right now, to seduce me, you have to call a Lucky Charm.”

Chat felt her heavy sigh move through his body like a wave. “Oh, all right, you contrary kitty.”  

Her hand lifted up into the air. “Lucky Charm!” she called petulantly. Nevertheless, despite her attitude, a bottle of tanning lotion fell into her hand.

“Any idea on how to use that?” Chat asked, trying to shift his focus from the woman in his arms to the battle ahead.

“Well,” Ladybug drawled, twisting sideways in his loosened arms to walk her fingers up his chest flirtatiously, “Beach Party is both vain and lazy. We just have to trick her into thinking that her tan is getting ruined.” She flicked his bell and merely smirked when he pulled her fingers away and gave her a warning look. “Then while she’s distracted we grab her seashell necklace off her neck and break it. I’m pretty sure the akuma is in there.”

Chat cleared his throat. “Sounds like a good plan.”

Leaning up, Ladybug looked at him through her lashes and asked breathily, “Does it make you happy? Or is there something else I can do for you first?”

Letting her go, he wiggled back a few feet as he stuttered, “N-no, you’re perfect. I mean, the plan sounds perfect and makes me happy. You make me happy.” Taking a deep breath, he looked her in the eyes and firmly said, “Very happy.”

Lips tilting with a pleased smile, Ladybug stood up. Then she sashayed from the room, hips swaying just a bit more than usual. He couldn’t help but enjoy the sight as he scrambled after her.

As they walked down the hall, Ladybug gave him a sly look from the corner of her eye. “You should probably expect me to die of mortification as soon as this is over, Pussycat, but on the off chance I don’t, you should know now that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second I spent seducing you. However, I’m unlikely to admit to it in the future without another magical compulsion.”

Lips quirking, Chat met her sly look with one of his own. “You should probably expect me to flirt with you even more now, as I thoroughly enjoyed every second of your seduction. I have no regrets whatsoever with how this day has gone and can’t wait to repeat the kissing and touching at length when you’re more yourself. Also,” and he couldn’t help becoming serious, “you can be as mortified as you like, as long as you don’t throw me, throw us, away. If you never want to kiss me again, I’ll mourn but deal with it. I just don’t think I can deal with the loss of your friendship.”

Then he stuck his fist out to the side, “Friends forever?”

Giving him an affectionate look, Ladybug bumped his fist with hers. “Friends forever.”

Then they reached the swimming pool and the time for talk ended. Magic had transformed the bleachers surrounding the pool into palm trees and sand dunes. The speakers played music featuring lots of, surprise surprise, ukuleles. Students silently played water polo in the water. Outside the pool, people built sand castles, waxed surfboards, and stretched out on blankets trying to get tans from the artificial lights.

Beach Party had been lying on a towel nearby when they burst into the room. “Ladybug! You got that mangy cat loose I see. Do I have to do everything by myself?” Jumping to her feet, she turned to summon her minions and order what Chat could only imagine as an imminent hailstorm of volleyballs and coconuts pelting their way.

However, before she could say anything, Ladybug jabbed her finger towards the akumatized woman and exclaimed, “Oh wow! Did you know your backs turning as red as a lobster!”

“No! My tan!” Beach Party exclaimed, distracted as she tried to twist around to see her skin.

“Here,” Ladybug called, loosening the lid and then throwing the tanning lotion at Beach Party.

The bottle slapped hard into Beach Party’s hands. Fumbling, she grabbed it tight to her chest to keep it from dropping. As she squeezed, the lid exploded off the top, spattering white lotion up onto her chin and down all over her beach balls. Sputtering with rage, she shrieked, “How dare you! The party planner makes the rules and this! isn’t! allowed!”

Recognizing his cue, Chat pounced, hooking his claws into her conch shell necklace and ripping it off her neck. Beach Party grabbed wildly for it, managing to catch the trailing end of the cord. However, the lotion made it too slippery and the cord slid back out of her fingers.

The shell necklace whistled as it cut through the air. Before Beach Party could order her minions to attack, he dashed the necklace against the ground. The corrupted conch shell shattered, releasing a black butterfly. It flew up into the air.

When nothing red snapped out to grab it, Chat remembered his job and twisted to look for his partner. “Ladybug, purify it and restore everything to make me happy!” he called.

Immediately a yoyo flew into the air and snatched up the black akuma. Moments later, Ladybug released a purified white butterfly. It fluttered through the windowpane and disappeared into the snowstorm still raging outside.

Chat turned back just in time to see Ladybug throw her Lucky Charm into the air and call out, “Miraculous Ladybug!”

The charm worked its magic as a swarm of ladybugs fluttered through the room, fixing all the damage done by the creation of Beach Party. The temperature dropped by almost thirty degrees and the bleachers reappeared. Students once more wore regular clothes instead of swimsuits, which caused everyone in the pool wearing full clothes to start cursing and splashing for the edge to get out. Even the enticing cutout on Ladybug’s costume disappeared.

Smiling with anticipation, Chat turned to Ladybug to exchange their traditional fist bump.

With her arm half-raised, Ladybug suddenly froze. Her face darkened, turning as red as her suit. Meeting Chat’s eyes, her jaw dropped open with a horrified gurgle.  Seconds later she closed her mouth with an audible click.

“My Lady?” Chat asked, opening his hand and turning it palm up in an attempt to look harmless. He sent her a hopeful smile.

As her Miraculous beeped in warning, her skin drained to a pasty white. Ladybug whimpered, but otherwise didn’t even blink from where she stared at him in horror.

“Princess?” he whispered hesitantly, pleadingly.

Ladybug’s face flooded again with scarlet. Pivoting on her heel, she sprinted away from him, banging loudly through the doors. He’d only taken a few steps forward before she disappeared around the bend of the hall.

Chat didn’t bother chasing after her. Despite his initial hopes, he realized that she wouldn’t talk to him now even if he did catch her. She’d warned him, after all. She was too busy dying of mortification.

After making sure the crying victim was taken care of and no one had drowned in the pool, he disappeared and transformed back into Adrien. He fed Plagg some stinky cheese and turned in his test to the office. Then he stalked off to track down Marinette and return her lucky pink pencil. However, his hope of seeing her so soon proved vain. Marinette never came back to school that day.

Of course he had the bad luck to be gone for a four day fashion shoot out of town. Then he had to get through the whole weekend before school on Monday. That meant he wouldn’t see her for almost a week.

Trying to control his anxiety, he told himself that at least a few days out of town would force him to give Marinette some space to calm down. The distance would also help him work his head around this new information and maybe even give him some inspiration on what to say to her. Otherwise, with the way he felt right now, he’d probably be camped outside her window every night yowling for her like a tomcat in heat.

Neither Ladybug nor Marinette would respond well to that.

So Adrien left for the modeling job for his father and tried not to die at the irony of it being a swimsuit and beachwear themed photo shoot. Then he rushed back to Paris and his lady. He’d made a lot of plans while he’d been gone.

On Monday, Marinette immediately harpooned plan A by refusing to let herself be alone with anyone with a Y-chromosome, much less him. She even slept over at Alya’s house. The next few days saw the destruction and failure of plans B through E. The anxiety was killing him. Considering Marinette’s frazzled hair and the bags beneath her eyes, she wasn’t faring much better. He just wished she’d talk to him, or at least listen to his carefully prepared speeches.

Plan F was his last hope right now. While F might stand for failure, it also stood for fortune. He just hoped that Ladybug would let him borrow a bit of her luck. In fact, that had always been his ace in the hole. Adrien still had Marinette’s lucky pink pencil.

Thus when plan E failed the day before Valentine’s Day, he took it as a sign to confess his love on the day of lovers. He knew school was too public for the conversation he needed to have with Marinette, because all his public attempts had already crashed and burned during plan D. Impatient, he almost broke down and cornered her during lunch, but then he heard Marinette tell Alya and Nino that her parents were going out on a date, leaving her to close up the bakery all by herself.

So Adrien held his tongue through the rest of school, fidgeted during his Chinese lesson discussing the greatest Chinese love stories (all tragic), and worked off a bit of steam during a fierce fencing practice. He showered and then grabbed his dinner, alone like always, but couldn’t down more than a bite with the way nervousness twisted his stomach. Finally it became late enough for his visit.

Suiting up, Chat Noir grabbed the thin box containing her present and left. Although the air felt brisk and it had snowed earlier that day, there were currently no clouds to hide the twinkling of the stars or the large, lovers’ moon. As he bounced across Paris on his baton, he considered the clear sky a good omen. He needed all the luck he could get when going to confess his love for the embodiment of luck, Ladybug herself.

The scent of buttery croissants hovered enticingly in the air outside the bakery. As he neared the building, the warm glow from the windows seemed to be beckoning him forward. Although the storefront displayed a closed sign, he could see Marinette inside the bright store, moving around and dancing to unheard music as she cleaning up.

Smiling fondly, he bypassed the front door and went into the alley. Chat circled the building until he reached the back door. Then he took a deep breath for courage and knocked. For almost a minute he couldn’t exhale, not until the curtains pulled back and a pair of curious bluebell eyes peeked out.

The curtains dropped, hiding her face again. Chat felt his heart plummet, only to bounce off his stomach and soar back up into his throat when the chain jingled, the lock clanked, and Marinette opened the door. Blowing out his breath in a waft of steam, he waved sheepishly. “Hi.”

When she merely stared at him in silence, he couldn’t help but tease awkwardly, “What’s wrong, cat got your tongue?”

Marinette’s eyes narrowed and the door began closing.

Chat frantically backpedaled. “Sorry! That was a claw-ful thing to say, especially considering the last time we spoke and- and I can’t believe I actually mentioned tongues right off the bat. Please forget I just said that. Forget the puns too. Let’s just start over. Hi.” He smiled at her painfully, his stomach rolling sickeningly.

Facing him squarely, her stony mien cracked and her lips twitched. Raising her chin bravely, she met his eyes. “H-hello,” she greeted, her cheeks tinged the faintest pink.

Twisting his belt tail in his hands, Chat’s normal confidence deserted him, leaving behind the socially awkward Adrien. Breath steaming, he nervously asked, “Can I talk to you? Please?”

For a moment, he thought she would refuse. Horror flashed across her face and the door started to swing shut again.

Chat Panicked. “Isn’t it better to talk now than to wait until we’re in the middle of an attack?” he rushed out desperately. “Pretty please, m’Lady? Please?”

The momentum of the closing door slowed and then stopped. Marinette sighed heavily, rolled her shoulders, and then opened the door wide. “I suppose you might as well come in before all the heat escapes. If I haven’t died yet, it probably isn’t going to happen now,” she muttered to herself as she turned and retreated across the room to lean up against the counter and cross her arms protectively.

Catching the door, Chat let himself in and then shut it behind him. Before the silence could become too heavy, Chat took out the narrow box. “Here,” he said nervously, holding it out. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“What?” Marinette blinked, taking the box automatically. Staring down at the pale pink box tied with a tasteful gold ribbon, her face softened. “Kitten, you didn’t have to do that.”

“But I did. I’ve been trying to give you something on Valentines for years, I just never got up the courage,” he shrugged self-deprecatingly.

Marinette’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Seriously? I never pegged you as lacking in courage.”

“Only when it comes to you,” he smiled awkwardly. “You have to know that I’ve always thought you hung the moon and stars. You’re the cat’s meow.”

Biting her lip, Marinette examined his face deeply. The atmosphere felt heavy. Whatever she was looking for, he wished he could give it to her.

“Maybe you really do like Ladybug,” she finally said hesitantly, “but you barely know Marinette.”

“You’re wrong,” Chat defended, trying not to let her scoff keep him from saying everything he needed to say. “We’ve helped each other out a lot over the years, Princess. In fact, you’re the only person besides Ladybug whom I’ve given a pet name. I do know you, both as a superhero and- and also in my regular life, and what I know I like. A lot.”

“I know you in our regular life too?” she asked hesitantly, head tilting in curiosity.

 Holding her eyes, he answered, “Open the box and see.”

“The answers are in here?” she asked nervously, weighing the box in her hands. “Are you sure I should really know? It could be dangerous.”

“I’m willing to risk it,” he said steadily. “Open it, Marinette.”

Giving in, she nibbled on her lip, slipped off the ribbon, and lifted the lid. Brow crinkling, she set the box down on the counter, unfolded the tissue paper, and pulled out the black tube of his present. An amused smile curved her lips as she turned the object over in her hands. “Your grand romantic gesture is a pencil case?” she asked.

“Not just any pencil case,” he defended with fake gusto, “but an exclusive Chat Noir pencil case, made of deluxe buttery-soft black leather. Note the authentic-looking bell attached to the zipper and the paw-some little ears and tail on the left and right.”

Tracing a fingertip along one of the case’s pointed ears, she smiled and then flicked her finger at the bell on the zipper. Chat flashed to a picture of Marinette sitting on his lap and fondling the bell of his suit. He had to look away or risk embarrassing himself. His voice still came out a tad husky when he added, “The lining is the perfect bright green if you’d care to unzip the case.”

Marinette must have flashed back to a similar memory, for she was bright pink when he looked back. Rolling the case in her hands, she fingered the contents, asking, “What else is inside here?”

“You have to open it to find out,” he prompted.

Huffing as if annoyed with both him and herself, Marinette abruptly ripped the zipper open, exposing the green lining. She carefully pulled out a roll of paper. A pink pencil slipped out, almost falling to the floor before she caught it awkwardly against her stomach.

Staring at it in confusion, Marinette shook away her suspicions and sent him a polite smile. “This looks just like my favorite lucky pink test taking pencil. I don’t have it right now, so it will be nice to have an extra with my senior year finals looming on the horizon.”

“It certainly made me get lucky,” he answered with only half his attention. Most of his energy was spent trying not to flail while he watched her put down the pencil and finally unroll the paper. He knew the exact moment she recognized the face on the photograph inside.

Marinette choked. Coughing, her skin burst into flame, sporting the reddest flush he’d seen on her yet. Slapping the paper down on the counter, she bent over and gasped into her arms. Just before he gathered up the courage to touch her, she straightened back up.

Lifting the photo, she stared at it in disbelief, taking in all the details. Then she snuck a look up at him through her lashes, back down to the photo, and then finally held the paper up in the air, comparing the two side by side.

The photo came from his recent out of town photo shoot. It had been taken during the fashion show on the final day, when the press had been invited for a sneak peek of their latest swimwear line. Adrien had walked the catwalk in a pair of short, steel-grey swim trunks with a neon green horizontal stripe across the center, the same green as Chat Noir’s ring. A white draw-string dangled from the waist. It seemed only fair to let Marinette have Adrien revealed in a swimsuit too, since he’d gotten such an eyeful of her last week.

However, the main reason he’d chosen this photo lay with the necklace he wore. The purple beaded cord hung to mid-chest, with a silver charm in the center emblazoned with the word, Meow. It seemed like the perfect way to introduce his lady to the idea that Chat Noir and Adrien Agreste were the same man.

In the top corner of the photo, he’d scrawled, “Nous sommes amis pour la vie, je t’aime.” He’d agonized over it what to write and the order for days, but in the end, decided that saying, ‘we are friends forever,’ had to come before saying, ‘I love you.’ He just hoped this worked. Plan G didn’t exist yet.

Finally Marinette lowered the photo. “You- you’re really Adrien?” she squeaked.

“Yes, it’s true,” he confirmed, trying not to show how badly his hands were shaking. “It’s all true, especially what I wrote.”

“Oh,” she breathed with the merest puff of air.

“Is, is that alright?” he asked insecurely. “That he’s me?”

Blinking, Marinette seemed to rouse from her stupor. “What do you mean, is that alright? Of course it’s alright! I’ve only had a crush on Adrien for three years! He’s the whole reason I never let myself get serious about Chat Noir’s flirting.”

“Oh, so…,” and then he processed what she’d just said. A huge grin formed on his face. “You like me too! You’re saying you actually like me too, both of me!”

Suddenly he felt an attack of self-doubt. Like an idiot, he couldn’t help but ask, “Are you sure?”

Marinette rolled her eyes, but didn’t bother hiding her indulgent smile. “I’m paw-sitive, my silly little kitty. I’m going to have a massive freak-out in about five minutes over you being Adrien, but I’m sure that I’ll still love you when it’s done.”

Chat felt so happy he could burst.

Then Marinette tapped him on the nose and smirked. “So I’m going to kiss you quickly before that happens because I can’t help myself, but only one kiss and our hands have to stay in safe zones. Sound good?”

“That sounds litter-ally purr-fect, Princess. Fur real,” he wagged his eyebrows, reaching forward to reel a laughing Marinette into his chest.

“I forgot that you come with so many horrible puns. I don’t know if I can kiss you after three in a row!” she giggled.

“Don’t think I didn’t notice you punning around too, my lady. Besides,” he wrapped her in his arms and lowered his mouth to hover just above hers, “you know you want to kiss me.”

Pink bloomed on her cheeks, but it didn’t stop her from whispering into the space between their lips, “You’re right. I do.”

Leaning forward slowly, Marinette pressed her plump lips against his. Chat melted into her mouth, purring with pleasure. The warmth of her kiss banished the lingering cold from the winter outside and the ache of not talking to her for days. Eyes shut, he ran his hands up and down the line of her back, curving them around the sweet swell of her hips and over the wings of her shoulder blades. Marinette’s hands wound around his neck and tangled into his hair.

Finally they parted with happy sighs.

“My parents will be home soon and I’m almost due for my freak-out,” Marinette said, eyes lingering on his damp mouth.

Regretfully, Chat untangled their limbs and stepped back. “I don’t want to overstay my welcome, but…” he met her eyes, “can I see you tomorrow?”

Pleasure lighting her face, she nodded. “It’s the weekend, so how about brunch?”

“Not breakfast?” he griped.

Marinette laughed. “If we do breakfast, I’ll be expected back by lunch. For brunch, however, my parent’s won’t think anything of it if I stay out until dinner.”

“Then definitely brunch.” Chat nodded his head eagerly.

“Oh, one more thing,” she said, suddenly nervous again.

“You can’t think I’d say no to anything you ask at this point,” he chided gently.

An adorable scowl twisted her lips. “You can if you want to,” she insisted, “though obviously I’d rather you say yes.” Then she took a deep breath and asked, “Will you go out with me?”

Chat beamed. “Yes! I should have asked you first, but somehow this is better. Yes. Anywhere and everywhere, on rooftops and in subways, from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the depths of the Seine, with masks and without, and most definitely as your boyfriend from now on, yes.” Marinette laughed with shy pleasure and he couldn’t help stealing another quick kiss.

“So what time does brunch start? Is eight too early? Seven?” he asked cheekily.

“Try ten,” she laughed.

“Fine, nine forty-five,” he pouted, “but that’s my final offer.”

“I suppose,” she gave in. “At least that way I can introduce my parents to my new boyfriend.”

She chuckled at his audible gulp. “Don’t worry, they already adore you.”

“As they should,” he parried weakly. Shaking himself, he picked up her hand and deposited a loving kiss on the back. Turning her hand over, he then placed another on the inside of her wrist. It took more will power than he expected to remove his lips from her skin and step back.

“Tomorrow?” he confirmed one last time.

“Tomorrow,” she nodded firmly. “We have lots of things to talk about now.” They stared into each other’s eyes, love-struck, neither wanting to look away first.  

Then a teasing light entered Marinette’s gaze. “After all, I still haven’t gotten the full story of how Chat Noir got captured by that blond beach ball. I heard rumors about coconuts and volleyballs, but I’d love to get the true story from the cat himself,” she drawled with a smirk.

Groaning in embarrassment, Chat stepped back. “A-a-and that’s my cue to leave. See you tomorrow, Princess. Good night and sweet dreams, hopefully of me.”

“Good night, Chaton,” she answered, shaking her head as she opened the door for him to step out. The light from the open door didn’t disappear until he’d gotten too far to be seen with normal eyes in the chill Parisian night. Humming jauntily to himself, he vaulted across the rooftops, heading home to his bed to sleep away the hours until tomorrow.

THE END