Marinette takes her luck for granted.
Which is okay, most of the time. After all, that is her gift, a condition given by the miraculous stones she wears in her ears. But it also means that she is painfully unprepared for the days where her luck runs bone-dry.
Today is, unfortunately, one of those days. Despite the fact that summer is approaching, thick, dark clouds roll in that bring night over Paris earlier than usual, the sharp wind adding an unwanted chill to the air. Marinette watches the sky grimly as she walks along the dimly lit sidewalk, groaning when the sound of thunder cracks in the distance. It's only a matter of minutes before the rain starts.
"This is the worst day of my life, Tikki," she complains, even though her kwami is tucked out of sight in her purse.
"You say that about a lot of days, Marinette," Tikki giggles through the slight opening of the clasped top.
"Yeah, but I really mean it today," Marinette vows. From waking up late for school, to seeing that Adrien was out of class for the day, to the myriad of times she tripped. . .it all lead up to the worst of the worst. Being paired up with Chloe for a literature report due next Friday. Marinette wants to believe that it can't get worse, but when that thought crossed her mind earlier, Nathaneal had stumbled near her in art class. There was now a big yellow blotch of dried paint down the front of a shirt she'd just finished last night.
So, therefore, Marinette is perfectly aware that things can always get worse, especially while her luck fails her. Her only hope is that when she wakes up in the morning, the world will be as it should.
"At least it's almost over," Tikki assures her sympathetically.
Marinette is resolved to go straight to bed when she gets home. Her grades are good enough that she can afford to skip homework for once.
The sky cracks again and then the rain comes. Any other people walking down the quiet street scurry inside, leaving her to trudge through the downpour by herself. She doesn't really mind, even if it does mean that luck is against her today. The rain has always felt good and clean and she welcomes it, even as her clothes soak through and begin to cling uncomfortably against her skin.
She's still several blocks from the bakery when an uneasy feeling settles in her stomach. The weight of a speculative gaze slides over her neck and arms and she shivers with apprehension. Marinette tucks her chin and grips her purse closer, sensing the danger. There is a bright flash of light in the sky, and then another rumble of thunder.
Suddenly, the aloneness on the street isn't quite so peaceful.
"Do you think I should transform, Tikki?" she says just loud enough for her kwami to hear her over the rain. Whoever is following her now probably won't have reservations about ambushing Marinette, but no one with half a mind would attack Ladybug. The superhero is renowned for her undefeated streak of triumphs. Even if her luck is sour today, no one else knew that.
"Can you find a place to hide long enough to do that?" Tikki whispers back, her thin voice as unsettled as Marinette feels.
The teen hero is about to respond by breaking into a run to try to lose the guy when she glances over her shoulder and sees her hooded stalker too close behind. There's no way she'll be able to shake him. No time to transform. Heart pounding, blood rushing. The rain is cold against her suddenly flushed skin. Panic lights her up from the inside but at least she knows how to throw a good punch.
She spins on her heel so that he can't attack her from behind. The water streams down her face, her bangs tangled in her eyelashes as another roll of thunder sounds off overhead. This is truly the unluckiest day of them all. Only Marinette - a fifteen year old girl, no less - could attract unwanted attention in a city so full of much wealthier people.
Despite the lack of her transformation, the rush of adrenaline hardens her hands into fists, a swell of confidence rising in her chest. She may not be Ladybug, but this isn't unfamiliar - at least, she knows what she's doing.
"What do you want from me?" she demands loudly over the rain in a voice that's both terrified and unmoveable.
The figure stops only a couple paces away. "Give me your purse," he rasps out threateningly. Another shiver races up her spine and she's desperate to do what he wants. Her safety is more important than her wallet, after all, which is what she knows he's after. But Tikki is in her purse. There's no way she can give it up without outing herself as Ladybug, and she won't put her kwami in that kind of position.
She opens her mouth to refuse when a dark shape drops from the roof of an unlit shop and lands directly beside her. Half of Marinette cusses out her luck - really?! her fortune couldn't have gone that bad could it!? - while the other half swallows a startled scream that would have been drowned out by the blast of thunder that rolls over Paris.
The figure straightens beside her and she's frantically trying to grasp her sanity when she recognizes the width of his shoulders and the shape of his shadow against the backdrop of rain and lamplight. He doesn't even look at her - his terrible smile is directed toward the hooded thief that stands with a knife in his hand before them.
After a long day of test fittings and various hair styling sessions, of listening to his father quietly rage at the stage crew, the models, and him, Adrien is desperate for an escape.
He plans it well. Throughout the rehearsal for this weekend's fashion show, he'd smuggled as much cheese as he could to Plagg in the hopes that it would make his gluttonous kwami more compliant with an unnecessary transformation. It worked; Plagg was in a good mood, so as soon as Adrien has his bedroom door locked behind him, he turns into Chat Noir and leaps out his window.
Freedom slides over him like a gust of wind as he runs across chimneys and rooftops. When a crack of thunder shudders the shingles under his boots and the sky lights up brilliantly, he smiles, welcoming the threat of a storm.
Today had been crappy. The worst. It wasn't that Adrien wanted his father to give him special treatment when he is supposed to be working, but the formal pretense between them once they are off the clock was exhausting. The looming show makes it worse. His father is even more distant and uncaring than usual, turning the cold, loveless atmosphere of their home into something Adrien dreads.
He'd wanted more than anything to go to school today. He doesn't think he's ever wanted to be at school more than he did while he was taking harsh corrections and notes from Gabriel Agreste and his myriad of assistants. School is where Nino is, his best friend, the only person he feels close to without the mask that Chat Noir bears. School is where Alya is, the only girl in the world, he thinks, who could talk enough to make him forget his own mind. School is where Marinette goes out of her way to say hi to him, where she smiles like the sun every time he walks into a room.
He wanted that. All of it.
His thoughts linger a bit more on Marinette than they might have on a normal day. He thinks about her unwavering warmth and her kindness - she's everything that his life lacks and instead of making him jealous, it makes him long for her company, in the most complicated way.
Chat slows to a stop on top of a roof in the quieter shopping district as the rain starts to pour, smiling to himself. Adrien doesn't know Marinette - around him, she's sweet, but painfully shy. He can't get more than one coherent sentence out of her at a time. But Chat. . .Chat knows Marinette. Everytime he sees her in school, he can't help but remember her as she is whenever he runs into her as the masked superhero. Around him, she's sassy and straightforward. She reminds him of Ladybug, but he tries not to think about that too hard. Ladybug wants to keep her identity a secret. He won't pry.
He'll keep his speculations to himself for now.
The rain drenches him and he revels in it, but he feels himself start to go cold under the stretch of his suit. The thunder cracks and he's about to sprint off, to try and find someplace warmer and drier to hang until the storm moves on. But a voice full of fear and something like a dare travels to him over the sound of the pattering rain and he strides to the edge of the roof to see what's going on.
In a city as large as Paris, the chances of him finding Marinette wandering the streets during this storm were probably a thousand to one, but there she is. He wonders if its because he was thinking about her, or maybe he'd been unconsciously drawn toward her.
His gaze slides from her drenched figure to the dark, hooded man standing before her and suddenly his incredulous, care-free demeanor is ripped away from him. Something low and hot sticks in his throat as he reads the intention in the man's stance, sees the knife glinting in the rain and he isn't entirely in control of himself when he jumps off the roof and lands beside Marinette with a splash in the growing puddles.
Her astonishment is expected - she nearly belts out a scream as he straightens up next to her, but he keeps his eyes trained on the threat before them. The grin on his face is unfriendly - Chat has never felt such a dark cloud of anger, not like this. This protective, instinctive need to keep Marinette safe is not entirely unfamiliar, but the fierceness of it is.
"No worries," he says, but the teasing edge in his voice is flat and hard, "your knight in shining armor is here to save you, Princess."
The thief's hand starts trembling. He must have recognized Chat. Good. That'll make things easy. Marinette's mouth open and closes like a fish out of water and while he'd love to watch her make sense of his words, his gaze is pinned to the knife in the thief's hand.
"She's my friend, you know. You've made a mistake," Chat says, almost a snarl as he whips his baton out from behind his back. The rain makes it a little slippery in his hand, but he holds it tight.
"I just want the money," the thief replies cuttingly, though its clear he's uneasy. Despite the deep sound of his voice, the way he holds himself tells Chat that this hooded figure can't be but a boy in high school. It explains, at least, why he'd single out Marinette to rob.
"You drew a knife on her."
"I wasn't going to use it!"
Chat saunters toward him, unconvinced and uncaring and a little overconfident. Once he's close enough, he lunges and behind him, Marinette screams.
"You stupid cat!"
It all happens in a blur. Chat avoids the first couple of swings from the knife, but as he goes to cut his baton against the thief's stomach, the weapon slips out of his hand and clatters to the ground. He yelps in surprise - damn his bad luck! - and then there is the slice of pain at his shoulder and he stumbles back. The thief cries out something that gets lost in the thunder, his gaze only on Chat, and Chat watches with wide eyed wonder as Marinette scoops the dropped baton up into her hands and darts around behind the thief with miraculous speed, completely unnoticed.
She brings the baton down on the back of the thief's head quickly, and he falls to the ground in a sudden, ungraceful slump. Chat blinks the rainwater out of his eyes as she rushes toward her, her wet face distressed.
"Chat? Are you okay? Oh my god, he cut you." She kneels beside him in the puddle and touches his shoulder. He feels the pain, but it's not bad. Dazed, he turns his head to look at her, and the very tiny line of blood that cuts through his sliced suit at his shoulder, and then he begins to laugh.
She glances up at him in surprise. "What's so funny?"
He grins at her. "It's just a scratch."
Marinette frowns as she stands up. The rain begins to lighten up a bit and she watches as he, too, rises to his feet. "That's not something to laugh at, you idiot. What were you thinking? You could have been hurt."
Why isn't Marinette like this around him when he's Adrien? He watches her face screwed up in an angry pout, her eyes glittering, her rain-soaked face sparkling under the dim streetlamp. Despite the pain in his arm and the overall crappy day, he's happy that it happened. It lead him here, to this moment, with her.
"Marinette," he says, smiling even though all traces of amusement are gone, "he pulled a knife on you."
She frowns. "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you were here to help. But the way you were acting was irrational." Her eyes drop to his shoulder and her frown deepens. "Stupid, stupid cat. Walk me home so I can patch that up."
Marinette couldn't decide what to feel toward Chat. His recklessness had seriously pissed her off, but on the other hand, she wasn't quite sure she would have had an opening to get out of that situation unscathed if it weren't for him.
The rain had all but stopped once they reached the bakery, thunder still muttering in the distance. He'd been suspiciously quiet as they walked but there was a tiny smile on his face. Silence from Chat Noir can't be a good thing, she thinks, mostly just because she can never quite tell what he's thinking. Not outside of battle. Not when she's Marinette.
"My parents can't see you," she says once they reach the front door. "Is your arm okay enough to use the fire escape?"
"It's just a scratch," he reassures her, voice silky. "Though, you really should think about at least telling your parents of our relationship one of these days, you know."
She glares at him before dropping her gaze, bitter over the way she almost flushes at his comment. "Stop teasing me. I'll meet you in my room." She doesn't wait for him to respond before she enters the bakery. Her parents are helping customers so their greetings are kept short, but her mom presses a kiss to her wet cheek as she passes.
"You're all wet," her father says as she slips toward the door leading to the house. "Make sure you change so you don't catch a cold.
"Yes, papa," she grins. The bakery closes in an hour, so that's how long she's got to get Chat Noir dried off and bandaged up. She makes sure that her parents catch sight of her entirely innocent expression before closing the door behind her and darting up the stairs to her bedroom.
She stops by the bathroom first to change into a dry pair of pajamas she left in the closet, pulling the hairties from her pigtails to let her wet hair curl and dry around her face. Tikki tucks herself back into the closet, giggling over the fact that Marinette has subjected herself to taking care of Chat. She makes a face, and then grabs a towel for the cat and the first aid kit out from under the sink before heading to her room.
"Are you mad at me?"
Chat is sitting on her window sill when she opens the door, and he looks more distressed than she would have believed he could be. He always seemed like he had no worries whatsoever. The genuine concern on his face makes her heart flutter. A moment passes and something else creeps over his face, too, something darker and dangerous, eyes lingering around her wet hair.
"I'm only mad that you're an idiot," she tells him plainly, trying to ignore the strange twist in her stomach.
He shrugs, the despair leeching away to expose relief. "Well, then I guess it's moot. I wouldn't have done anything different." He shifts so that he's leaning dramatically against the window pane. "Your knight has been wounded in battle, Princess. How will you nurse him back to health?"
She rolls her eyes and shuts the door behind her. "First of all, dry off with this." She throws the towel at him before crossing the room to her desk. He grins as he catches it with one hand and then uses it to slick the rain off his suit, toweling off his blonde hair. She tries not to watch him, setting herself to opening the first aid kit and rifling around in it for antiseptic and a bandaid large enough to cover the scratch.
Her stomach twists again when she feels him approach her. This is Chat Noir, she has to remind herself, and its ridiculous that she feels so self-conscious and so terribly aware of him. He's right behind her now, close enough to touch. She can smell the storm on him, or maybe that's her hair, but either way, she's warmer than she was a few minutes ago.
"Sit here, kitty," she says sidestepping away from him, pointing at her desk chair. "The bakery closes in an hour so we have to make this quick."
He collapses dramatically in the chair. "No problem." Without any warning whatsoever, he reaches for the zipper under his bell and pulls it half-way down his chest. If she thought she was warm a moment ago, she's feverish now. Marinette licks her lips and tries not to betray her nerves as he exposes his injured shoulder, but her eyes linger at his collarbone, the gentle slope of his arm muscles and she begins to think that maybe this wasn't a good idea.
"Did you have to strip?" she mutters, glaring at him.
He raises an eyebrow at her, but there's something smug about his expression. "Did you want to clean me up properly or do you want me to die of an infection?"
Ridiculous. She sighs and grabs the alcohol wipes. He winces when she presses the pad to his cut with a little more force than necessary but she doesn't apologize. It serves him right. "What were you doing out there in the rain anyway, Chat Noir? Where was Ladybug?"
Even though she keeps her eyes studiously trained on his cut, dabbing at it with the alcohol wipe, she feels his gaze heavy like a physical touch on her face. "I just needed some me time," he says. "Everyone wants a piece of Chat Noir's alternate persona and it gets overwhelming." It's surprisingly truthful, she thinks, the measure of his voice.
She pauses long enough to side-eye him. "Maybe if you stopped flirting with every girl you saw, you wouldn't have these issues, Mr. Heartbreaker."
He snorts at the nickname, laughing. Marinette wipes the last of the blood from the cut and tosses the cloth into the trashcan before reaching for the antiseptic cream. "Me? A heartbreaker? Unless I've broken your heart, Princess, I'm no such thing." He waggles his eyebrows. "Have I broken your heart?"
She finds herself laughing at him as she smears the cream over the soft padding of the bandage. "No."
His voice is so void of teasing that she looks back up at him. That smoldering look is in his eyes again. "I don't flirt with a lot of girls." Her knees are weak, but she's a little angry at the statement. Mostly because he swears his undying love to her everytime she shows up as Ladybug, and now here he is, acting all swoon-worthy and stupid in her bedroom and its intimate and she hates it.
And still, her knees feel weak.
"Sure," she replies shortly, unconvinced.
His eyes stay glued to her face as she presses the bandage onto his arm. Her fingertips brush his skin and he's warm. God, he's warm. She feels her own temperature go up a notch at the proximity. What the hell has gotten into her tonight? Was it the rain? The way he actually, probably, saved her life? Maybe it's because he's sitting in her room shirtless?
"Why were you walking around in the rain?" he asks.
"Long story not worth explaining," she replies, knowing that her hands are purposefully lingering as she runs her fingertips over the non-adhesive side of the bandage. Just to be sure it sticks, she tells herself, but its not entirely true.
A tiny beep pierces the brief silence between them. Marinette yanks away from him and stands up straight, remembering that she's not supposed to know what it means. "What was that?" she asks innocently.
Chat sighs and pulls his suit back into place, zipping it back up the front. "It means I've got about five minutes until I turn back into a pumpkin." He rolls his shoulder, feeling out the bandage before flashing her a smile. "Thanks for bestowing your loyal subject with the best healthcare around."
"If you dare say anything about me being the antidote, I will kick you."
He grins like a cat, green eyes burning, burning, burning. Does he mean to do that? Does he know what he's doing when he looks at her like that?
"It's the outfit," he purrs, reaching forward, touching her loose hair, quickly giving her pajamas a once over. They're pink and polkadotted and she doesn't know why, but she blushes as his hand brushes over her shoulder when he pulls away.
His ring beeps again.
She swallows and steps back. "Um. It'll probably be easier for you to leave through the terrace above my bedroom." She needs to get him out of here. Out of her room where she can't smell him, out of her proximity where she can't see him. She needs to get him out of her head, and out from under her skin.
She climbs the step ladder to the door in her ceiling and opens it before hauling herself out into the cooler, crisp night air. It smells clean and fresh and wet after the storm and she takes it in to clear her mind. Chat follows her through the door before kicking it closed after him. It's so dark in the alcove above the door that she can't see his face, just the outline of his silhouette.
Something about the darkness makes it worse. Her heart crawls up into her throat when he comes to stand before her, his heat nearly reaching her across the space between them.
"It was nice to see you again," he tells her in a low voice, dripping with honesty.
"Thank you," she responds, "for tonight. I would have been in trouble without you."
He laughs, but its quiet and warm and very close. She thinks he might be leaning toward her and it makes her breath tremble. "Marinette, this knight of yours was fairly useless." His laughter grows a little deeper as he places a hand against the wall near her head. "I'll never forget how you looked with my baton in your hands."
She remembers that flash of desperation, the urgency to save her cat from getting stabbed by some high school reject on the streets. Even if she wasn't Ladybug, she had to save him. She couldn't be a duo with just one.
The darkness makes her honest. It's dangerous. "I was scared he'd hurt you."
He is leaning in as his voice turns sober. She can't breathe. "I was scared he was going to hurt you, too."
Tentatively, she reaches out. She doesn't have to go far before her fingertips find his chest. "I thought. . .I thought you cared about Ladybug," she whispers.
Another tiny beep. Time is running short.
"I do," he says simply.
She's afraid to ask anymore, afraid of everything that she's feeling and everything that she wants. Maybe if she were Ladybug, she could push all of this away, push him away and pretend like there was never anything between them. That's what Ladybug would do.
But Marinette can't bring herself to put up a wall to block Chat out. Chat Noir sees her as she truly is - as Marinette - and he likes her anyway. Likes her enough to throw himself in front of a thief during a thunderstorm to protect her. She expected him to do that for Ladybug but he did it for Marinette. Shyly, she lets her fingertips trace all the way up the front of his zipper, over the bell at his neck, to the warm, dry skin of his throat. She feels his pulse under her fingers, thudding with his heartbeat.
"You should probably go," she murmurs quietly, touching the corner of his jaw.
He places his other hand on the other side of her head, his forehead brushing against hers as he nearly pins her back to the wall. She can't see anything, but she can smell the rain still drying in his hair and feel the heat of his gaze burning into her.
"Would you let me kiss you?" he asks, his voice rough with an ache she feels too.
"I. . .I like someone else," she says. Why does it feel like a lie?
"Me too." Another simple answer. It makes her want it more.
Her fingers trace his jaw to his chin and then she gently touches his lip. "Okay," she whispers.
His mouth presses down on hers tenderly. He's softer than she expected, and even though she's kissed him before - even though she'd felt something before, no matter the fact he'd forgotten it ever happened - it was nothing like this kiss. Maybe her luck had already turned around today.
She melts. There's no other word for it. She finds herself pulling him closer, pulling his body flush against hers, reaching up to touch the soft, damp ends of his hair.
Again, his ring beeps. The final warning, but Chat shows no signs of leaving.
He pulls away only to whisper, lips still touching hers , "Marinette, keep your eyes closed." She does as he asks because she is putty in his hands, but also because she knows what's about to happen and it's already bad enough that she'd betraying Adrien to kiss her most trusted partner. She doesn't need to see the face of the boy who is pulling on her heartstrings tonight.
His breath mingles with hers and there is a flash of green light and then its dark again. She knows that even if she opened her eyes, she still wouldn't be able to see him, but she won't take that chance. Suddenly warm hands cup her face, the cool sliver of his ring pressing to her cheek as he flattens against her lips once more.
The realization that this is the boy behind Chat's mask lights her up. Everything feels like fire. His skin burns into her and she winds her arms around his neck, pulling him closer, closer, closer. He makes a sound of surprise and of something else, something deeper and warmer, that travels down to the pit of her belly as she deepens the kiss.
He lets her. He gives more in return than she asks for and it leaves her breathless. Her knees turn to jelly. His name fills the space of her mouth, sticks in her throat, and she wants to keep this moment forever, but eventually he pulls away, his nose brushing hers as he rests his forehead against her eyebrow.
"I'll see you later, Princess," he murmurs, thumb pressing to her bottom lip, and then the heat of him is gone. She waits several moments before opening her eyes to make sure she gives him enough time to vanish.
A part of her hoped that when she finally looked he'd be standing there, looking perfectly kissed and perfectly devilish about it. But the only thing that lies before her is the deep darkness that hid their secret so well. She leans her weight back against the wall and sighs.
Her heart still races in her chest and she presses her hand to her collarbone willing it to stop. None of this was supposed to happen tonight. This is so out of hand. How in the world is she going to act when she sees him again? What does any of this mean, why does she feel like this for him? It's painful and blissful all at once, like loving Adrien, but deeper. More. How the hell is she supposed to deal with that?
A kiss with Chat Noir, she thinks weakly, was the perfect way to end her unlucky day.