The night air of Paris was starting to dip from the comfortable cool of autumn into the growing chill of winter. For a certain hero however, perched calmly on the rooftops of a neighborhood, she would argue Paris looked even better. The drowsy glow of the city in summer was charming in its own right, but for Ladybug the city she looked over never looked better than in the crisp air at the decline of fall. Where the leaves still clung to the trees making them look like torches winding through the streets, but the weather felt distinctly of winter. Just without the snow.
Ladybug lifted her mask clad face to the sky and examined the dark rolling clouds that promised a heavy rain. Though she typically adored the rain there was a frown on her face, as someone who definitely did not like the rain sprang to mind. Actually to be more accurate, Cat Noir despised storms. If she was being honest it was kind of interesting, because according to her teammate he was a fan of rainy weather himself when he wasn't wearing the bell and mask. The first time they had ever been out on patrol together when rain had started to fall he defended himself desperately, saying he had no idea why he was reacting the way he did and that he honestly wasn't afraid of the rain normally and please stop laughing at me Ladybug. His argument had been a lot less convincing from his position huddled underneath a parked car, actually hissing and shaking. It had sounded like a real hiss as well, not even a human imitation, and the look on his face at the time implied that he as well wasn't aware he was capable of such a sound. Yet another interesting aspect of their suits…
She started to laugh out loud as the image of a soaked and pissed off Cat Noir refused to leave her mind, only stopping when she heard a hearty call of, "What a beautiful sound!"
She turned to welcome the cat in question to her rooftop, starting to say some sort of retort before a heavy roll of thunder cut her off, and when the cocky cat's flirtatious expression warped into one of irritation and dislike, she couldn't help but laugh again.
Cat scowled, now understanding that the laughter was directed at him before he had even made it to the rooftop. Still though, she was gorgeous when she laughed… or did anything really. Even when it was-
Another crack of thunder and he was crouched low to the ground, shielding his ears from both the sound and the rain water that was sure to fall soon, a pout on his face.
"It isn't fair," he whined, "Seriously, it's not like ladybugs even do anything so you don't have these kinds of problems. What's the extent of being a ladybug even, getting tired when it's cold? Because that's all you got and it's extremely unfair."
She giggled, approaching him and kneeling down to his level to hopefully provide some small amount of comfort. "Well out of the two of us I do have the better luck, guess that means getting the longer end of the stick on this one."
He was acutely aware of her proximity, trying to comfort him and making his heart skip in the process. Regardless, he was still very capable of protesting when she said, "Head home Cat I can handle patrol alone tonight."
"Absolutely not. I was joking about the cold thing before but that can actually be a weakness for you and I'm not leaving you to trapeze around at stupid speeds on roof tiles alone, at night, in the RAIN."
She raised an eyebrow at his stern tone, remembering with an internal groan just how stubborn the alley cat could be when he thought something was dangerous for her.
"I'm fine Cat, go home." She crossed her arms, willing to be just as stubborn as him on this one. Water could actually mess with him if his hair and ears got too wet, something they had discovered the first time around which was later confirmed by something called a Plagg. Spend too long out in a storm and both Cat and his kwami could get very ill.
"No," he glowered at her from his crouched position, "What if you slip? Someone needs to be around to catch you."
"You'll be petrified under a park bench if you stick around not leaping to my rescue Tomcat, I'm serious, go HOME."
"I'm serious, I'm STAYING. Either call off the patrol or deal with me, your choice." He stood up to drive his point, the image marred slightly by his gloved hands shielding his head. He was firm and defiant, usually one to let his lady have her way but not when it came to her safety. If the rain soaked her through and she got too cold she could pass out somewhere and need him.
Ladybug shot up an annoyed glance at the storm, becoming more anxious the longer they argued. She had no idea where Cat Noir lived, he might need all the time he could get to make it home before the downpour.
"Fine," she growled, "No patrol tonight, or tomorrow if this continues. We can watch Paris from our homes, just keep an eye out for trouble. Call me when you make it home okay, I'll need to know if you are stuck in a tree somewhere."
"Aw is my lady concerned for me?" he purred, his mood instantly chipper now that he had won. "Don't worry, I'll call as soon as I'm through the door."
"Good. Goodnight Cat," and she was off before he could get out any more stupid flirtations, having already spotted a few heavy drops starting to fall.
"Goodnight Ladybug," he said to the night, a smile on his face, before another flash of lighting had him sprinting for home as well.
Marinette sat in her room, still in costume staring at her compact.
"Should he have called by now?" she said aloud, addressing her currently sentient earrings.
"Don't you worry," Tikki responded through Marinette's thoughts, "He's a tough kitty."
Thinking again of a hissing Cat stuck under a car made her doubt as much, but she knew Tikki was right.
"Are you going to go with your plan?" Tikki spoke again, and Marinette's eyes were drawn to her currently open sketchbook, showing blank pages.
"Yeah…" she said slowly, "It shouldn't be any more risky than my mission with him before was when I was out of costume. Besides, he really needs a hood, and both of us need new costumes for winter sooo…" She trailed off just as a call came through, and with a sigh of relief she answered it, careful to make sure her background was an unassuming blank wall.
"I am calling to ease your uncertainty my lady, your precious cat is safe," an image of Cat cooed at her from her compact, and she was glad that it was a video call so that he could see her roll her eyes.
"Listen, I had an idea while I was heading home," she started, becoming more confident with her plan even if it did guarantee her a headache down the road. "Do you remember that girl you helped out, Marinette?"
From his shocked expression she guessed that he did.
"Yes I do, what about her?"
"Well, I'm not sure if you knew but she's actually a designer, a student one, but talented enough for what we need." She felt the need to make her lines more distant, adding, "Did you get the impression she was trust worthy when you worked with her?"
Cat seemed to consider the notion, which irritated her a little because of course she was trust worthy, before he smiled and said, "Yes absolutely. Why?"
"We need to get you a hood, and we are both going to need warmer outfits before winter really hits. I was going to commission her to design us some things to use, then put them together. What do you think?"
To her surprise, her feline companion seemed extremely excited.
"That's a great idea! I'm sure she will do a great job with it, yes I'm totally on board. Get the order in right away okay love? A hood would be a life saver, and I only have eight to spare."
She scoffed at his nickname, and sputtered an "Okay bye," before hanging up and throwing herself face first on her bed. She felt her transformation dissolve and the gentle pat from Tikki on her hair as she muttered, "What am I going to do with that stupid cat."
Meanwhile Adrien was unmasking at home, wondering what he had done to earn such an abrupt hang up. Despite the call cut short though, he was grinning stupidly to himself. With Marinette behind the designs his new suit was going to be AWESOME.
Adrien went to bed that night trying to come up with sneaky ways to convince Marinette to show him her sketchbook at school on Monday so he could get a sneak peek, maybe even convince her to use his favorite ideas. But it had to be smooth… hmm. At least he had the weekend, though he doubted it would be much more creative than just asking.
"It really came down last night, getting caught out in that mess must have been a nightmare." Nino, Adrien's best friend, looked out of the classroom window at the rain that soaked all of Paris in a watery filter.
"It's eased up a little since then but it looks like it's going to hang around for a while," Adrien replied, somewhat sourly. The rain wasn't hurting him at all now that he was a civilian, but his patrols with his lady had been put on hold ever since Saturday night and they didn't see each other outside of them at all or even speak. He was starting to have Ladybug withdrawals.
"Yeah, check this out," a female voice spoke up, and Nino and Adrien turned in their seats to see their friend Alya holding out her phone which was open to the weather app. To his dismay, it was dense rain clouds all the way across, meaning the storm was almost sure to stick around for the rest of the school week.
"Awesome," he muttered, about to turn back around to get some sulking done before class started, before he heard the softest sound. It was incredibly quiet, and with the pounding of the rain and the chattering of his classmates he was almost positive he had only caught it because of his sharpened hearing thanks to his miraculous. It was humming, almost inaudible and bouncing along to the beat of a scratching pencil immediately to Alya's right. His eyes tracked to the side and were distracted by the girl working diligently in her sketchbook, her dark blue blackish hair falling slightly in her face as she worked, happily humming a song he didn't recognize that no one else could hear.
There was a small part of his brain telling him he was staring, but he couldn't help it. There it was again, that confident self-assured look in her eyes that he had seen once before, when he was on the other side of the mask. He had seen her in a totally different light when she had needed his help in an akuma attack, she didn't stutter, not nearly as much as usual at least, and she was… well different. She was more playful, and at ease, even in the face of danger. Anyone else stuck facing an unstable super villain would have shrank and panicked, but she had kept a cool head and handled it with grace (a word he hadn't really attributed to Marinette before). Even when things had looked bad and he was at a loss for how to proceed she had been calm, pointing out a clever solution and taking it in stride. He honestly couldn't believe this cute shy girl who always sat behind him in class could be so confident. It had spurred the train of thought on more than one occasion of 'Why isn't she always like that? Why is she different around me, do I make her uncomfortable? Do I intimidate her?' He examined her intense blue eyes, totally absorbed into her work, and knew it didn't sit well with him that that might be true.
He was forced into action when he caught Alya and Nino trading curious glances, realizing he had been staring for way too long. With a slightly hot face from embarrassment he blurted out, "Good Morning Marinette."
"Good Morning Adrien," she replied easily, never lifting her eyes, and he was shocked. So was Alya, the girl looked like she was glowing with pride at how at ease her friend's reply had been, but that pride was scuffed slightly as it seemed to occur to the designer what had just happened.
Her head shot up like a gopher, her face immediately tomato red and her eyes wide, all confidence completely gone. It made him sad. What had he done to make her so agitated around him? He wanted to consider her a friend, one of the few he had.
"G-good morning Adrien," she squeaked, shrinking in on herself, laughing nervously, "Sorry I was distracted…"
He smiled, going for warm and friendly. "That's alright! You seemed really wrapped up in your project," now was his chance. "Can I ask what you're working on?"
She seemed shocked that he would be at all interested, another thing that didn't sit well with him. Of course he was interested her work was amazing.
"Oh uh it's um, n-nothing really, nothing interesting."
"I'm sure that can't be true," he disagreed, "Your designs are great, it's all interesting."
Nino smiled to himself, wondering if his friend knew how that might sound, Alya obviously on a similar page. Marinette was even redder than before, but looked very proud.
"Thank you, t-thank you that's really nice of you you're really nice." She bit her tongue before she could ramble anymore; unbelievably excited about what might be the longest and greatest conversation she had ever had with the gorgeous boy she was infatuated with.
He smiled again, his eyes falling curiously to her sketchbook and away again. He didn't want to be rude, but he was almost positive her had seen cat ears on that page and was now doubly curious.
"It's, I was thinking, that it's cold. Outside, in Paris, and raining so, I was thinking that maybe uh… Ladybug and Cat Noir might be… cold so…"
She was losing confidence fast, but spun her sketchbook around for her crush to see, and was elated to see his face light up in amazement.
"Woah!" he exclaimed, lifting the book to get a closer look, which he thought might be rude after he had done it but it was too late now. He was already completely distracted with a page filled with incredibly detailed and intricate hood designs. There were five and a half designs, the six being the one she must have been working on. Each one was different, sometimes subtly and other times drastically, but wherever there wasn't a picture there were notes, each one thorough and impressive. Things like measurements, fabric length, possible materials, cost estimate, recommended stitching, secondary stitching, best possible thread, different methods of waterproofing; the list went on. It was incredible, he hadn't even considered that so much thought would have to go in to what he had originally considered to be just a length of cloth over his head but it made sense now. Ladybug had no doubt explained that it was very important his head remain dry, and the weight of the material mattered. There were little thoughts doodled in the corners that read things like, "Must remain steadily in place even at high speed with significant wind drag," or "Unsure if squishing ears uncomfortable? Try to avoid," and many others. On top of all of that, it had to match too.
To say he was impressed would be an understatement, he was floored. That heavy uncomfortable feeling in his gut returned. Here was this kind girl working so hard to help him out (well Cat Noir) and always being so nice to him, and he knew almost nothing about her. When was the last time they even properly talked? Had they ever? They weren't particularly close but it bothered him that one of the reasons they weren't might be because he made her nervous. Now having some kind of insight as to who she was when he wasn't the one she was talking to he realized that he did want to know her better. She seemed like an interesting person, and with designs like the ones he was looking at, extremely creative. He wondered what else there was about her that he had never known because he might have miss stepped somehow along the way.
"These are so cool!" he exclaimed excitedly, practically bouncing in his seat, "The notes are so detailed, you've really put a lot of thought into this, and they look cool too!" He was sort of self-conscious, worried now that his comment might seem excessive and intimidate her, but he honestly felt that way. He understood completely why Ladybug would hire her, if the choice had been up to him he probably would have made the same call. He returned the sketchpad, resisting the near overwhelming urge to flip through the rest of it and look for suit designs.
To his joy Marinette seemed to love his praise, she looked over the moon really, collecting her drawings and bowing her head graciously. "You are too nice thank you! I-it's just simple rain hoods, you are so nice."
He smiled happily at her, finding himself proud of her for braving through their conversation so well. He was grateful too, finding it funny that the shy designer would never suspect that the guy the rain hoods were meant for was sitting right in front of her the whole time. Sometimes being a secret superhero was pretty fun. Well most times honestly, it was pretty great, even with the crippling bad luck.
He turned back around to lay his head in his arms, smiling into the crook of his elbow and closing his eyes, listening to the rain. The chatter of students and the chime of the school bell was surprisingly relaxing, or maybe that was just his sudden good mood. And when the day had started so sour too… the thought just made him smile more.
Nino kept an eye on his friend for a little while more, running interference for Alya so she could calm Marinette down without worrying about Adrien turning around without warning. He seemed so… pleased? It was nice to see such ease coming from his friend, who he knew led a stressful life (though he didn't know to quite what extent). Plus it was pretty cool to see Marinette get a little attention from the oblivious blonde. She definitely seemed excited… maybe a little hysterical even. He had stayed on the outside of that whole situation, only knowing about it from Alya and leaving it to Adrien to figure out. Now though… well it wouldn't help to steer him in the right direction.
Turns out he didn't need to do much though, because throughout their next few classes, Adrien's eyes stayed on Marinette.
Adrien was wrapped up in the mystery of her discomfort around him, pleased with the progress he had made that morning. She seemed genuinely happy to receive his praise, and he had been happy to give it. She really was talented. He had been ticking through a mental list of things he knew about her when Nino interrupted him.
"Sooo, Marinette is pretty cute huh?"
Nino had to swallow the laughter that threatened to erupt when Adrien whirled to face him so quick you would have thought someone put a branding iron to him. He was red faced near instantly, hissing quietly, "What are you talking about?"
"Right? Tell me she isn't."
"I- where is this even coming from," he sputtered indignantly. His friend raised an eyebrow at him, not even pretending to do their lab work anymore.
"I could ask you the same thing! You have barely even acknowledged Marinette before and now you won't stop staring, what's the deal?"
To his surprise Adrien seemed more irritated than probably was fair, saying "I do acknowledge her she's my friend! And I'm not staring!"
"Oh yeah, totally," Nino chuckled, teasing him. "Not staring. At all." He rolled his eyes to emphasize his sarcasm, enjoying how flustered his friend was. "Don't think I didn't notice that you didn't deny she was cute by the way."
Adrien groaned and committed to ignoring Nino for the rest of the lesson, keeping his eyes away from Marinette to drive home his point that he wasn't staring. It didn't matter if she was cute, that wasn't why he was staring, which he wasn't. However saying, "I just want to know her better" definitely wouldn't have helped dissuade Nino, so he had to deal with what he had.
He finished out the first half of the day disappointed with his imagination, having spent his time trying to imagine what his winter suit would look like with not much to show for it. He desperately wanted to see Marinette's version, and with her in mind once again he couldn't help but glance over at the girls while the bell rang, the two of them packing up their things.
Marinette seemed to be making a joke, and Alya was laughing happily. He wondered what it was, adding a tentative "Funny?" to his list. As he got up to collect his stuff he overheard Alya groan.
"The indoor cafeteria will be crowded and loud, no one goes off campus really in this weather. We'll be lucky if we can even get food."
"Maybe we should try off campus anyways? I have some spare money and my jacket is pretty good, we can probably make it to a food place nearby without getting too wet." Marinette offered the solution casually, and in it Adrien saw an opportunity. He wasn't looking forward to trying to sit through either a crowded lunch at the school, or a silent lunch at home, so he quickly sent a text to call off the driver and made his way towards the two.
"Sorry for eavesdropping," he started, hiding a smirk at the way Marinette jumped in surprise, "Are you guys going off for lunch? Mind if Nino and I come?" He looked behind him to see if Nino had any objections to him volunteering his company, but seeing that he didn't he turned back to see Alya grinning.
"Sure thing! There is a deli a block away or so, we can probably get to it relatively dry."
"I have an umbrella if you girls would like to share it," Adrien offered happily, glad that he was allowed to tag along.
Marinette was swooning, what a gentleman! Alya had another plan though.
"Oh I have one too! Nino!" Alya called, "You can share mine with me if you want, I see you forgot yours."
Nino caught on instantly, giving her a wink that the other two couldn't see and saying, "Yes thank you! That sounds good."
Adrien smiled at Marinette, holding out his slim black umbrella that was currently folded up. "You can have mine then, if you'd like."
Flustered as she was she shook her head, surprising all three of them as she stammered out, "I-I don't want you to get wet, I'll be fine I have a hood!"
He grinned at that, adding an 'Independent' and 'Courteous' to the list. He didn't back down though, instead compromising and saying, "Well I don't want you to go without. We can share then, deal?"
He wasn't sure why she suddenly looked like she was going to faint, but when she nodded and smiled he shrugged it off.
"Let's go, after you," he said with finality, gesturing to the door and following her out, Alya and Nino lagging behind to trade a fist bump, pleased with the scenario they had created for their friends. Alya was a bit concerned that sharing an umbrella with Adrien would be a little much for her friend, but had faith that everything would work out.
Marinette was panicking, trying not to hyperventilate and keep her cool, but how could she? This was completely amazing, how could she focus through this? She was going to make a fool of herself she knew it, terrified of slipping and falling flat on her face where he would then point and laugh and never love her. It was the reassuring pressure against her thigh from Tikki, cheering her on from her place in her purse that eased her anxious thoughts slightly. She would be fine, she had good luck right? She hoped that would be enough to carry her through.
When they reached the curtain of water at the end of the hall, Adrien and Alya opened their umbrellas. Nino was quick to claim his spot, leaving the dashing Adrien looking expectantly at Marinette, his arm outstretched slightly to offer her protection from the rain and a welcoming smile on his face.
'This is it!' she squealed internally, finding the strength to move at another gentle push from Tikki. Then she was there, huddled against Adrien as they moved out onto the street. The drumming of the rain against the umbrella made it impossible to speak to Alya and Nino, who moved out ahead to lead the way, and with such a heavy downpour it felt like they were completely alone. Like the falling water created a tiny room on the flooded street, which only Adrien and herself occupied. It felt startlingly private. She nearly screamed in delight when he moved closer to her, needing the proximity to keep her dry, his cheeks a little red at the intimacy himself. He hoped against hope that he wasn't making her uncomfortable.
They walked in silence for a little while, the sound of the rain filling their tiny room, when he felt a small shove against his chest. Checking to see that Marinette was looking ahead and not at him, he glanced down at Plagg, who was hiding beneath his jacket.
"What," he mouthed silently, nervously checking that he wasn't seen.
Plagg gave him his cat-ish grin, mouthing back, "Are you going to talk to her or what?"
He reddened slightly at that and looked away with a huff. He was working up to that obviously.
"Uh-" he stuttered out. Nice start. "How is your day going?" Excellent opener Adrien well done.
She turned to look at him and then away again quickly, saying, "Um good! Great! Just uh, class and stuff." She said it enthusiastically but with a self-conscious chuckle, tacking on after a beat of silence, "You?"
"Mines been good, though seeing those hood designs has definitely been the highlight so far," he laughed at her shocked wide doe eyes, happy to earn such a reaction. "You're so humble about it too, it's really admirable."
She looked so stunned that he wasn't surprised she couldn't find words to reply with, smiling when she eventually just laughed an airy, giddy laugh.
"So I know you love designing, but what other things do you like?" he asked, his curiosity pressing him to ask.
Marinette looked very red now, combing her hair with her fingers and starting a sentence once or twice before finally responding. "I- I like sewing, and drawing. I like baking. I'm really good at it but my family owns a bakery so that's sorta… uh normal really." She chuckled nervously again, wondering why on earth he would care but loving that he did.
He beamed at her with a smile that made her mind go blank, stumbling over her own feet a little and swallowing heavily.
"That's awesome! I can't cook at all, I'm pretty hopeless at it."
'That's okay I'll cook all our meals when we're married,' she thought with an internal dreamy sigh. She couldn't believe it. She was talking to him, they were talking and learning stuff about each other.
"What do you like to do?" she asked, her confidence soaring as she didn't stutter once in that sentence.
"Well I like video games, and fencing can be pretty fun. I like being active," he said vaguely, once again enjoying the humor of his secret. He had a hard time thinking about what he liked doing that didn't directly out him as Cat Noir. He couldn't very well say 'running along rooftops with my lady' as an answer, or fighting bad guys. "Exploring is fun, just finding new places in Paris I haven't seen before. I don't get a lot of freedom… so I like to get out and discover new things when I can."
He was surprised at himself for saying something so personal but it was honestly how he felt. There was something about Marinette that made him feel like he could trust her, and he felt remarkably at ease with her. To Marinette's disbelief, she felt similarly. Speaking to Adrien like a friend, having him open up about his life. She was reminded of something Tikki had said one day at school when Marinette had run into the girls' restroom in a panic to avoid Adrien because she was working up the courage to say good morning still.
"What if you and Adrien never get together?" she had said rather harshly, "Do you really want to miss out on being his friend too?"
No…, she thought, examining his face as they walked. She didn't want to miss that. She was in love with him yes… but there was a reason she loved him. He was an amazing person. Didn't she want to be friends too?
"I'm sorry, that you don't get the freedom you should," she offered gently, her desire to comfort him making it easier to speak clearly. He looked down at her with shining green eyes, taking in her soft genuine smile. "But," she continue, "I'm pretty active too, so if you need someone to come break you out of your room I'm sure I can make the climb and drag you down with me."
She smiled wider then, soaking in his happy laughter that erupted at her words. She could do this, she decided, she could do this for Adrien. Because in the end, he really was trapped up in that big empty house with a cold and distant father.
Her determination to be there for him gave her strength, like the strength she felt as Ladybug. It was a core part of her personality, a gentle caring part of her that rose to the occasion when others were in need. Smiling came easier, being close to him a little less petrifying.
He was still laughing, managing a few words between every burst. "I'd like to see that! That would be pretty cool!"
"Think I can't?"
It was like a switch had been flipped. She was still absolutely love sick for the gorgeous blonde model, but that part of her that wanted to see him happy felt the need to be there for him. Sure, her stutter was still pretty harsh, and her face was still flushed and her hands were still shaking a little, but she was going to do her best to be brave.
He was ecstatic. She was teasing him! Joking, but also reaching out. He had seen the genuine care in her eyes, that soft emotion he didn't have a word for. It made his heart skip in a way that confused him. He was extremely aware of the sensation of having her eyes trained on him, someone he had taken for being so shy also having a kind of intensity to her, like she had made some kind of decision she would back up with her life. An unwavering certainty, about what he could only guess. It amazed him.
Alya and Nino stopped under the awning of the deli, their casual conversation falling flat as they took in the sight following up behind them.
Adrien and Marinette were playfully arguing about something, both a little red in the face, but standing closer together than was probably strictly necessary to stay dry. Marinette said something with a shy smile, looking away in embarrassment, and Adrien laughed hard. She seemed to fake a pout and flush a darker red, reaching out to soak an outstretched hand in the rain then flicking some of the water in his face, which stunned him into silence before they both laughed together.
Nino looked over at Alya, who checked the sky only a little sarcastically for flying pigs. How in the world was she doing it, Alya thought in amazement. She could barely say good morning! What on earth had changed!?
'There is no way I'm leaving him alone about this,' Nino thought with a fiercely intense joy, shaking out Alya's umbrella and opening the door for Adrien and Marinette, seemingly lost in their own conversation. 'No way in hell.'