Adrien Agreste married young. They were a society power couple for a few years though the marriage itself was in shambles pretty much from the moment the engagement was announced. He was keeping secrets, she was more interested in the tabloid story of the girl who married the model than the actual man and they agreed on nothing. She vanished with everything from their joint bank account and left him with a three year old daughter they had named Rosalie.
Adrien had seen his childhood home fall apart after losing his own mother and rather than retreating behind nannies and high expectations and the belief that money could make up the gap. No, he restructured his entire life. She could take every penny but it meant that Rosalie never had to overhear another screaming fight in her life. He made that a vow.
"We can do this, Rosa-Rose, just you and me," he told her.
He moved out of modeling except for a few choice contracts and into the agent side of the business. He kept his client list and his hours short so that he was the one to pick Rosalie up from day care. He was the one to over cook the carrots and somehow manage to splatter tomato sauce across the kitchen ceiling of their flat but they had dinner together. He was the one to read the books. When Rosalie went through a dinosaur phase and then a faerie phase and then a phase where she pulled the wings off her faerie dolls and glued them onto her dinosaurs, well, her dad was the one who went out and bought her better glue so that they stayed.
It was just after Rosalie's fifth birthday that the first Akuma attack rocked Paris. Adrien had sat through the entire broadcast with his arms around Rosalie because what if it came down their street? What would he do? It was just a few hours of panicked news reports later that Ladybug appeared and undid the damage. It was another two weeks before a rude little ball of black fur tumbled down onto Adrien's desk on a Tuesday morning.
"The universe requires balance, where there is evil, so too must there be good. Evil has come to this city and so we must find a balance. Why they chose a pencil pushing dork with ridiculous hair for this is beyond me," it said while sitting on his keyboard.
The adjustment period took awhile. Plagg's explanations didn't get any clearer. The first attempt at transformation left Adrien woozy and deeply unsettled. The fourth attempt at transformation happened after he found a baby sitter for Rosalie and he spent half the night teaching himself the boundaries of his new strength and accidentally discovering that falling four stories wouldn't kill him when he was Chat Noir. After that it was easier.
Plagg insisted on being a secret. It took four days for Rosalie to find him, capture him carefully in both hands so his head was all that was visible over her tiny fists. Plagg was glaring and Rosalie was chattering happily, claiming he was a sprite which was a type of faerie.
"I deeply regret agreeing to this partnership," Plagg said.
Rosalie kissed him on the top of the head and the kwami hissed and glared up at Adrien like it was his fault. For the first time in a very stressful month of change and bizarre revelations, Adrien burst out laughing. He laughed until he had to sit down on the floor because he couldn't regain his breath. Rosalie came and sat on his lap and he tickled her until she was laughing just as hard and let Plagg go to float above them and sigh about his luck.
Marinette Dupain-Cheng had married for love. Her high school sweetheart had proposed just after graduation and they'd moved in together in the summer before they started university. She was taking fashion design and he was taking a far more practical business degree. When she found out she was pregnant halfway through her second year, she nearly had a meltdown. After being talked down by her best friend and then being talked down by her husband and then her best friend again, they decided they could do it.
She gave birth to her son the summer before her final year was supposed to start and spent the year at home with Hugo before heading back to classes part time after her husband had graduated and found a job. They juggled and they scrimped and they saved but they were happy and they were together and they were sure that they would make it.
Until she answer the door with a not-quite-three-year-old sniffling against her shoulder and a textbook held in the other hand to find a police officer talking about car accidents.
It got harder after that.
Night classes and day jobs for Marinette, babysitters and playing behind the counter at his grandparent's bakery for Hugo. Stories where Mama did all the voices and rare free afternoons spent painting and drawing until they'd filled an entire wall with their work. Hugo took up an obsession with soccer and then an obsession with birds and then an obsession with becoming a bus driver but the painting remained constant through it all.
Hugo was six when he brought a little red toy in from the balcony where he had been reading and his mother looked up from a budget sheet just as it blinked and then lifted up off his hand. She screamed and pinwheeled backwards off her chair, landing in a pile of bank statements and upending a bowl of fruit that had been on the counter behind her.
"This is Tikki, she said she was looking for you," Hugo said as way of introduction.
"What's a Tikki?" Marinette asked untangling her legs from the chair she'd fallen off of.
"There is change coming, not the good kind, and Paris will need a hero, I'd like it to be you," Tikki said.
There was some disbelief and some yelling and a demonstration of what the word transformation meant and then some more disbelief. The discovery that while she was Ladybug she could lift Hugo up with one hand led to an evening of strength tests.
"I'm going to make a terrible hero," she said once she was herself again and the three of them, mother, son and tiny red creature, all sat on the living room rug.
"You're going to be better than Batman, your costume is cooler and I saw in a movie that capes are bad, you don't have a cape so that's good," Hugo told her.
"That decides it, no cape, must mean I am the saviour of Paris!" Marinette said and though she meant it as a joke, Hugo just nodded like it was the most perfectly logical thing anyone had ever said.
"We can do this, you, me, and Tikki," Hugo said, "I'll help you train. We're going to have to get the rest of the Batman movies so we can learn everything about superheroes."
Even after the first attack, once it was over and the postman who had just been terrorizing a city block was shaking his head and everyone else was sitting up like they'd just woken from a bad dream, even after all that, she still wasn't sure she could do it. When the newspapers posted cellphone photos of Ladybug she had just sat and stared at them until the images blurred. Hugo painted her a picture of her in her spots and she stared at that with the same mix of amazement and doubt.
The city was quiet for three weeks and she had thought it was over. Hugo was planning his seventh birthday party and negotiating for more than her limit of five kids in their tiny two bedroom when she saw news of the attack pop up in twitter notifications. The indulgent neighbour across the hall took Hugo and his list of party themes and Marinette, still a little terrified by the possibility of failure, waited until she was out on the street to transform.
That was the first battle where Chat Noir appeared. Tall and blonde and broad shouldered and the kind of cocky that made her want to punch him on principle but when she was backed into a corner, her was the one who pulled her out. That time when it was finished, he stared at her with a wide eyed expression that she couldn't quite understand and said, "We should do this again sometime."
She did punch him then but only on principle and not too hard. He surprised her with a musical laugh and a grin that skirted the line between leering and adorable.
"I've got someone more important to get home to than you, cat boy," she said.
"Chat Noir, my lady, you can call me Chat Noir," he said.
"Good bye, Chat Noir," she said and hurried home to tell the story to Hugo.
Adrien started planning to move out of the centre of the city after the fourth attack, they were too close and he couldn't concentrate on keeping people safe if he was worried about Rosalie. They moved to the outskirts where they could afford a larger apartment and when his coworkers asked, that was his excuse. The offer to let Rosalie choose which colour to paint her new room led to a horrible shade of teal but smoothed over the worst of her concerns about changing schools.
On the first day of classes she wore her favourite dress which was almost as alarmingly teal as her room was and they took the elevator down. It stopped on the seventh floor and let on a little boy a few years older that Rosalie and a woman with dark hair in the middle of a conversation on a cell phone.
"Yes, Maman, we're coming on Saturday, absolutely, Hugo, tell Grand-mere we're coming on Saturday," she said in an exaggerated voice, holding the phone out to her son.
"We're coming on Saturday Grand-mere, absolutely, I made you a new picture," he said.
Rosalie locked an arm around her father's leg and leaned out around him to look at the strangers. Adrien found himself quirking a smile at the way they'd said "Absolutely," in the exact same tone.
"Do you go to Saint-Louis too?" the boy asked Rosalie and she snapped back so she wasn't staring around Adrien anymore. The mother looked up and gave Adrien that uncomfortable wide eyed look people sometimes did. The "you look like a model" look. He shifted uncomfortably and dropped down beside Rosalie to hide it.
"I honestly don't remember the name of the school, we may be about to get impossibly lost ," he said.
"Papa! It is Saint-Louis! 23 rue canard, we went yesterday," she said.
"I'm in CE2 with Mlle Brioche," Hugo said, "You can walk with us so you don't get lost."
As the elevator doors slid open on the lobby, Hugo held out his hand and after a skeptical look up and down, Rosalie took it. He had to be only about seven but there was something about him that made him seem older. Confident and smiling. Adrien fell into step beside Hugo's mother and gave her a smile that she returned.
"That is Rosalie, I am Adrien, we just moved in on the fourteenth floor," he said.
"Marinette, that's Hugo, we live on the seventh, but I guess you noticed that because we got on on the seventh," she cut herself off with an awkward little smile.
"Is it a good school?" he asked and that started her off talking about the teachers and the program and the facilities. She was apparently on some parent advisory board and once she was talking, her awkwardness started to fall away.
Hugo led them all the way into the CP room and probably would have arranged proper introduction for Rosalie and her new teacher if Marinette hadn't reminded him that he would be late for his own classes. He gave her a big hug around the middle, shook Rosalie's hand, shook Adrien's hand and actually said the words, "It was a pleasure to meet you," like he was a fifty year old businessman and not a seven year old. Then went to scamper up the stairs to his classroom with his mother pausing to wave back at Adrien before she disappeared back out into the street.
Adrien lingered in case Rosalie came bounding back out in tears but she didn't. Of course she didn't. She was a hundred times braver than he was. Outside on the street his phone buzzed, he'd taken the morning off in case his daughter needed him so he was sure it wasn't his job.
It wasn't. It was a news alert. Something had smashed through the third story of a building not two blocks from the Louvre. He poked Plagg awake out of his pocket, said a moment of thanks to the public school system and all the space between the Louvre and this neighbourhood and then used all Chat Noir's speed to close that distance.
Ladybug met up with him before he got to the city centre.
"Looks like we're both late," she said.
"Shouldn't have taken that cat nap," he told her.
"Hilarious," she deadpanned with a little quirk of a smile. She was gorgeous and she didn't look at him the way so many people did, like he was rich and pretty and something they could chew up and spit back out. They stopped on a rooftop to look down at the destruction and she looked over at him like a partner. Like they were in this together.
"We can do this," he said.
"I know," she said.
Overly Chatty Author Notes:
I was just going to do this as a list of headcanons but then I was 700 words into a tumblr post so I decided to commit.
BUT I have no intentions of building this into a bigger story.
I can see the potential for cute: Adrien coming to trust Marinette, being comfortable enough to let Rosalie walk to school with her and Hugo. Chat Noir and Ladybug building their partnership as adults. Hugo's quest to be allowed to see the R rated Batman movies: "M. Agreste, do you have Batman Begins on DVD?" "Err, aren't you a little young for those?" "That's what Mama says but I'm not. I need to see all the Batman movies. It's important." Rosalie's faerie dinosaur collection being the most delightful thing that Marinette has ever seen. Marinette getting her break into fashion with a small runway show on some side stage at Fashion Week. Adrien recognizing her name when it comes across his desk on a call for "up and coming" models. Him volunteering to do it himself because the Agreste name will pull far, far, far more attention than most side runways would ever see. He hasn't done a runway show since his wife left, the press would love it and it would help kickstart her career from 'thing she does around her boutique job' to genuine rising star. Or go with drama: Adrien's wife showing up and trying to worm her way back into his life and him doing everything possible to keep Rosalie away from her.
But I have too many fics on the go and I like the way this all hangs together as it is so one shot.