Disclaimer: I do not own Miraculous Ladybug or any of the wonderful characters in this universe.
But all of the writing in this is mine.
Marinette likes the winter.
She likes the warm apparel, the foggy windows, the snow piled high in the streets. She likes to curl up in her blankets, sketching designs as the snow falls. And on particularly cold days, she likes watching the steam curl up from a fresh mug of hot chocolate, specially prepared by her father.
But even as someone that doesn't mind the cold so much, there are some things Marinette just doesn't like about the season.
One of them is roaming the rooftops of Paris in spandex, when the temperature rivals the freezer in her parents' bakery.
And on a night like this – when her nose is pink and her face is nearly numb from the wind's bite – she is reminded that, while she thoroughly loves this season, it is certainly not her favorite.
Marinette breathes into her cupped hands, shivering under the breathable material of her suit. She'll have to look into finding fabric for a coat that allows flexibility and movement.
It's been a long night. She didn't want to patrol at all, originally. But lately there have been several akumas, and the crime rate has spiked exceptionally. The colder it gets, the more desperate people become – and standing on a ledge, overlooking the city lights and thick sheets of snow, Marinette can almost see why.
She imagines her bed, and the thick, cozy blankets waiting for her there. Just the image of it is enough to make her ache – or, that could also be the frostbite in her fingertips.
As she contemplates, Chat slips up behind her, nearly undetected. Nearly, because the crunch of snow gives him away.
"You look a little under the weather, My Lady."
Marinette cradles her elbows, rubbing heat into them as she turns to meet Chat's gaze. Her lips press into a thin line, and she dismisses his playful grin entirely.
"We should call it a night, I think. There will be a storm moving in," she says, trembling.
His lips curve devilishly as he notes her shuddering, the clatter of her teeth.
"If you're looking to warm up, I'm always at your dis-paw-sal, Bugaboo."
Marinette shakes her head, turning her gaze toward the streets below so he won't see her amused smile. His cheeky tone doesn't mask the shiver the travels down his spine, and she imagines that he's also probably colder than he lets on. Cats aren't fond of the cold, and she's fairly certain his suit is just as thin as hers.
"Go home, Chat. We'll reschedule the patrol for a different night."
He looks ready to protest, but she's too impatient for his bravado or flirting, and she's already hooking her yoyo onto a chimney in the distance, lunging off the roof.
She dashes across the buildings, leaping through the cold night toward the bakery. When she looks back over her shoulder, he's already gone.
Good. Maybe the silly cat will be sensible.
Chat is not sensible.
He knows it's cold. He can't feel his face, or the snow that catches in his lashes and clings to his hair. But he doesn't want to go home – not after the afternoon he spent grueling over studies for a Chinese exam and sheet music for his piano lessons. Nathalie had slapped a whole stack of it on his desk before exiting his room briskly, pulling the door shut behind her. And being the dutiful son he was, he'd gone over all of it.
It was all he could do not to transform and jump out the window before nightfall, before the actual patrol was scheduled. Sitting there, bent over the papers with heavy eyes, all he longed for was Chat Noir's freedom.
Now he has it, and an impending winter storm isn't going to take it away.
His mind wanders, and he recalls Ladybug's cool, level gaze. The pink splotched across her face, pooling in her cheeks and collecting in the tip of her nose. The shake of her head at his joking tone, the small smile that threatened to curve her lips.
He wonders what she does when she goes home – when the cold closes in and she's resigned to the confines of her house.
It's probably warm, wherever she is. Saturated with her scent, undoubtedly.
Chat has to stop himself. The path those thoughts follow is a dangerous one to tread, and he's worn his way through it so many times, he's well-aware what lies at the end.
When he looks up, he recognizes his surroundings immediately. He's circled this part of the city a few times in the span of an hour, his hair whipped back and tipped with frost, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides to urge heat into his fingers. He can make out the outline of the school, illuminated from the streetlights. A sign hangs over the bakery across the street from it, the light dim but familiar.
If he passes the bakery during the day, he can usually smell the baking bread, the fresh scent of cookies and pastries. But at this time of night, he can't smell anything.
After a few seconds, his eyes settle on the balcony.
He wonders what she is doing right now; probably holed up and attempting to keep warm – the second sensible girl he's run across tonight.
After a few seconds of contemplation – and another chilling breeze in his hair – he shoots across, landing on the uneven shingles of the neighboring roof. Chat scales the side of the bakery, clawing his way over the railing of the balcony.
The plants are withered and dead, caked with snow and buried beneath the weight of it. He can see distinct footprints in the packed ivory, much smaller than his own, leading to a trap door that has been cleared.
Chat shakes the snow out of his hair, a shiver running across his limbs as a gust of wind hits his neck. The wind picks up, and he sways on his feet, struggling to suck in an icy breath. It's a reminder of Ladybug's warning about oncoming weather, and Adrien chastises himself for being reckless and ignoring it.
He tries to recall what he knows of Marinette. She's shy and reserved, easily flustered and possibly clumsy. She's hardly spoken a word to him without stumbling over herself, and she is fairly withdrawn from anyone aside from Alya.
No, that's not entirely true. He remembers her run for class president, and her straight-forward confrontations with Chloe. In the past she's been indifferent toward Chat, with a considerable amount of spice in her personality once the two of them spent more time together – albeit, as brief as it was.
So, there must be something more there, underneath the timid blue eyes and embarrassed smile.
Chat kneels next to the trap door, swiping at the fogged glass to glimpse into the room below. She might be asleep, and if she is, he doesn't want to disturb her.
Warm light splashes onto her desk from a lamp, illuminating an array of sketches. Various designs are outlined in charcoal and colored pencil, a sketchbook open and forgotten underneath one of Marinette's hands. Her hair spills over her slouched shoulders like dark ink, released from her usual pigtails. Her lashes cast dark shadows over her cheeks, lips parted in unconsciousness. It takes him a moment to recognize her lovely features, under the unusual lighting and without her signature hairstyle.
Someone has draped a blanket over her back, and a cooling cup of hot chocolate sits on her desk, nearly empty.
Chat crouches next to the trap door, uncertainty flashing through him. She looks so comfortable and cozy; the sight causes his numb hands to ache, down to the bone.
Ultimately it's the wind, pressing and relentless, that urges Chat to drop down from the balcony and round the corner of the building – to her window.
He peers into her room, revealed in a new light from this angle. He can see her slumped form from here, warm and inviting. Chat raps on the glass, his luminescent, green eyes darting from her desk to the little door in her floor. Hopefully he won't be alerting anyone else in the house to his presence.
He can only imagine her father's reaction if he saw a strange, masked boy outside her window, lurking out in the cold. The thought is almost more intimidating than a possible akuma attack.
As though sensing his presence, Marinette startles, several papers fluttering from the desk onto the floor. He's barely tapped on the glass again, and her eyes drift to the window, bleary and disoriented.
They stare at one another for several seconds as she seems to collect herself, registering the sight of him. The recognition surfaces in the furrow of her brow, her blue eyes rounding. Chat grins broadly as she pushes back out of her chair, crossing to the window.
Marinette fixes him with guarded eyes as she unlatches it, shoving it open. A rush of warm air tickles his face, and he unconsciously leans into it.
"Chat Noir?" she sighs groggily, rubbing her eyes.
"Were you expecting someone else?"
His smile is impish – daring.
Her pajamas look flannel, the top button open to glimpse a soft collarbone. A tinge of pink warms her face, undeniably inviting to a shivering cat, grasping anxiously at her window frame with frigid claws.
Marinette's hands fall away, and frustration flickers in her tired gaze. She seems to bridle it, schooling her features into nonchalance. The display of expression in that one moment is more than he's experienced from her in over a month of fumbling for conversation as Adrien.
"I wasn't expecting anyone. Do you have any idea what time it is?" she asks sharply.
Chat digs his digits into the structure, shifting his weight. Puffs of hot breath steam from his lips, curling into the air before dissipating between them. Marinette stares at him pointedly, unfazed by his visible shuddering.
"A hero's responsibilities are never off the clock," he quips.
She frowns at him, and his eyes follow the movement. The downturn of her lips, the slight knit of her brow. Her hair is disheveled from her nap, the impression of lines from notebook paper on her right cheek. And despite the button-down pajamas, she still manages to look resolute.
"I was patrolling," he admits finally, "I was lost in thought, and it grew cold. When I saw the light from your window, I thought…"
The last part isn't entirely a lie, he reasons. Her gaze is unwavering, but he can see the gears turning behind it.
"You thought you'd just come scratching at the door, and I'd let you in." she says plainly.
"A storm is coming," he adds.
He can't read her expression, but he can see the way something shifts in her features. There's a part of her he's rarely seen – the part that thinks practically and evaluates a situation.
When she lets out a sigh, her fingers hooking in his collar – dragging him in over the threshold with surprising strength – he can sense the resolution there. A satisfied smile flits across his face at her consent.
Marinette has never considered herself a cat person.
She's not especially fond of their self-entitled attitude, or their demanding need for attention. As she sits at her desk, her chair swiveled to face the boy perched on her chaise lounge, she's reminded of the most distasteful similarities between her partner and the real animal.
Chat stretches out over the piece of furniture, rubbing his face into a pillow. He looks absolutely content, the dark flush in his cheeks receding as he acclimates to the temperature of the room.
The frost in his hair and on his suit melts, and she chastises him lightly for getting her things wet. But her irritation ebbs as she watches him stretch out, his chest rumbling with delighted purrs as he sinks into the cushion.
Marinette collects the papers from the floor to busy herself, arranging them into a neat stack. It's quiet in the bedroom, snow falling hard and fast outside, a hushed consistency. The only sound between them is her quick, nervous breaths, and the deep vibration in Chat's throat. She fingers a loose thread on her leg, suddenly self-conscious.
She's comfortable with Chat – she knows Chat.
It's not the first time she's been unmasked with him, and it's not like he seems to suspect anything. But this is the first time she's been alone with him – really alone with him – as herself, and not Ladybug, with no civilian eyes or meticulously aimed lens to follow.
Chat holds no affection for Marinette – it's Ladybug that he's infatuated with. So she really has nothing to fret over.
Those thoughts, those inward reassurances, do nothing to snuff the anxiety in her stomach from the proximity.
"I'm sure a very busy hero like yourself has important things to do," she says in an even voice, "So whenever you're feeling better, feel free to let yourself out."
She tries to sound light, casual. But there's a quiver in her voice, and she prays he doesn't notice.
A pair of bright eyes consider her from beneath the pillow, slit with leisure.
"Are you so eager to be rid of me, Princess?"
"Oh, no! Of course not. But I'm sure Ladybug would worry about you," she clears her throat, adding, "And my parents have a strict no-pet policy since we live above a bakery."
A chuckle escapes Chat. The sound is low and warm, like the shift of sheets on skin. Instead of answering, she can see his gaze flit over her head, examining something on the wall behind her. After a few beats, he sits up on the chaise, and there's something in his eyes. It races across his expression fleetingly – surprise, interest, and then genuine amusement. It unnerves her, the way the corners of his mouth lift.
"You're a big fan of fashion…or one model in particular?"
Comprehension splutters through her, and Marinette's face flushes. She twists around, eyes widening, her ears growing impossibly warm. Posters, magazine clippings, and various illustrations of Adrien Agreste adorn her wall, littering every open space that's not occupied by her own designs. The meager light from her lamp casts shadows over the room, but it escaped her that Chat can see in the dark. Embarrassment crawls up her neck, blooming in her cheeks as she averts her eyes, pretending at indifference. She can feel Chat's piercing gaze, settled on the back of her head as she glances guiltily toward the framed picture of Adrien on her desk.
"I'm a fan of Gabriel Agreste's work," she says feebly.
"And of his son."
There's that smirk. She can hear it in his voice.
"He's a talented model," she argues.
But there's no denying the stutter that threatens to disable her explanations, or the darkening blush that pools in her face. And it too late, because Chat has already taken notice, and she can feel his attention on her. She expects him to tease, to haggle her for her juvenile crush.
Instead, there's an underlying range of emotions that play out behind the eyeholes of his mask, and Marinette looks over her shoulder at him, pausing as she notices it. She's barely recognized the uncertainty, the indecision in his eyes, before he's risen to his feet, rocking back on his heels.
The energetic surety of his posture returns in that split second.
"It's late for a school night," he circles around her room, curiously inspecting the things on her dresser, "What are you doing up at this hour?"
Marinette turns back to her desk, tracing the outline of her latest work with gentle fingertips. Her eyes roam the discarded pencils and tools, the shavings and pieces of lead strewn across the surface. She really gets engrossed once a design sets into her mind.
The moment she returned from the patrol, she had enough time to let the transformation drop and settle down at her desk, before the papers in front of her started to become hazy. Between half-conscious sketching and dim lighting, she can't remember when she drifted off.
"I've been working on a project," she answers vaguely.
She's hardly aware of his presence over her shoulder, the inquisitive eyes that sweep over the sketches under her hands, until she feels his breath stirring her hair.
"You're very skilled," he says.
His voice is silky and quiet, interest lacing his tone. He shifts behind her, his hand crossing over her shoulder to touch one of the drawings. Marinette grows still.
"This one – the lace is detailed. Delicate work, but it complements the neckline nicely."
There's a scent on his suit, on his hair as he leans over her. Has he always smelled like this? The cologne is familiar, but she can't place it, and it's unbearably distracting as his fingertip traces the drawing. Marinette's eyes fall closed as she breathes it in, her head growing light. It could be that she's still tired, still half-awake, and the light from the lamp is pleasant and homely…
Her eyes snap open, "What?"
"Is there something else on your mind, Princess?"
There's that amusement from before, rolling off of him as he laughs quietly. Marinette's face burns.
"You know a lot about fashion," she points out, "For a cat."
Chat hums low in his throat, and the sound is almost as hypnotizing as his scent.
"A coat is only as good as its grooming," he says.
"Going by how cold and miserable you looked out there, your grooming must be subpar," she sniffs – and a waft of that sweet, musky smell assaults her senses.
The glee doesn't leave his tone, and she's starting to think he's enjoying this.
"The whole point of spandex is that it's flexible and breathable. If I wore a coat, it would only be a restraint during a fight."
His hands find her shoulders, and her stomach dips at the unexpected touch. The chair swivels, and Marinette's breath hitches uncertainly as she's pulled around to face him. Chat leans into the space between them, palms resting on the back of her chair, his presence caging her in. An unfamiliar heat wedges in her abdomen as he eyes draw over her.
"Does my princess really think my grooming in sub-par?"
His pupils are blown, set against a vibrant shade of emerald. In the shadows of her bedroom they are incredibly bright, flecks of yellow and vivacious green, smoldering from behind the confines of the mask. She can't remember his gaze being this intense before – or a time where she would have ever used the word 'mesmerizing' to describe any part of Chat.
"I'm not your princess," she says softly.
The vivid, cat-like orbs crinkle as he smiles.
"Ah, yes. You already have a prince."
His attention darts to the picture frame behind her, and she bristles at the hilarity in his tone. He's entertained by this – by the childish notion of her interest in a boy. In someone unattainable. His ability to flip between being flirtatious and taunting is striking.
Who is he to joke about impossible relationships? Just over an hour before, he'd been practically fawning over Ladybug.
Marinette hackles with annoyance, her cheeks puffing indignantly.
"Better a prince than a pushy stray."
The smirk slides from his lips, his expression hardening unexpectedly. He considers her carefully for a moment, as though deliberating.
"And what if your prince were a frog, hm? What then?"
Marinette's heart lurches as he bows toward her, the cool tips of his hair grazing her cheeks.
"Would you still kiss a frog?"
This close, she can't escape his scent, or the burn in his eyes. She's still upset, still frustrated, she reminds herself desperately.
"At the end of the day," she breathes, "A frog is still a prince underneath."
Their noses almost touch, and Marinette can feel his breath on her face. She's sucked into the unyielding slant of his eyes, the sharp curve of his jaw as it works.
When Chat breaks away, his hands falling from the chair, her heart is thrumming. Marinette watches him move to the ladder, climbing to the secluded nook where her bed is tucked away.
Frantic thoughts race across her mind, panic lodging in her throat. Countless scenarios surface in her imagination, unbidden and each one more ludicrous than the last.
"Wha- Where are you g-going?"
Chat peeks over the edge of the loft, his eyebrows raised.
"To take a nap – unless you have a better way to pass the time?"
Marinette reddens, glancing toward the window. The snow is still falling, and so is her sensibility.
Originally this was going to be a oneshot - but my hand slipped. So expect more chapters!
(Feedback is appreciated!)