What do you call a cat race?
A soft chime of bells against swaying hips. Mozart played quietly, charming strings and piano duets, the kind of music which was perfect for cuddle dancing, not bee-dancing with new outfits.
"This is amazing," Deedee said, shaking her stinger so the tiny bells around her hips pealed. She picked up the sheer, sky blue skirt and flared it wide. "You had exams this week. How'd you have time to do all this?"
"When Adrien said you were having a sleepover here tonight," Marinette said, helping Tikki into her little emerald green costume. "I knew I had to have these ready for you. It didn't take long and it was nice to work on something while I studied. Adrien's costume was more time consuming." She picked up a tiny red vest. "Where did Plagg go?"
"Nope!" the cat kwami called from the vicinity of the bed. "Not getting me into anything that resembles a costume."
Marinette sighed and lowered the vest. "I'm so disappointed," she said, playing up the dejection in her voice. "I worked so hard on these for you. I even matched you and Tikki's colours!"
"You just said it didn't take long!" Plagg accused.
"Doesn't mean she didn't work hard on them," Tikki scolded. "Look at the embroidery! She's amazing and—"
Marinette shook her head and placed the vest back down on the sofa. "It's okay, Tikki."
"No, it's not," Tikki said, darting over to the bed. "I want to see him in it."
They'd had a hard week. Exams and constant study and barely saying two words to each other all week and now they were done and that feeling was incredible. There was just a small graduation ceremony and they'd be ready for summer. No more classes. No more schoolwork. Just time for some relaxation and fun. And maybe a trip to Milan.
The Mayor had planned victory celebrations for Ladybug and Chat Noir. As there were so many celebrations planned, high-end events, parties charities, auctions, all sorts of things, there was no way they'd be able to attend them all. They'd decided on four personal appearances throughout the celebrations. Two with each other (the first and last events), and two solo appearances. This allowed them to attend events with Alya and Nino and gave the people of Paris a chance to see them more.
For now, Marinette was eager to see her little creations on her kwami friends. And Adrien. While Adrien's outfit wasn't finished, she'd had enough of it together so he could try it on and she could check what needed to be altered. She got her notepad and tape measure out. Picking up her pencil she chewed on the end as she thought about what she needed to record.
Tikki dove for the bed. "Plagg! Come out here!"
Plagg phased through the bed and raced for the rafters. "Nope!"
"Deedee, help me catch him!"
Marinette giggled as she watched the kwami zoom around the room after each other.
"Ahh, honeybug," Adrien said from the bathroom. "Are you sure you want me to come out wearing just this?"
Marinette turned to see Adrien poking his head through the door, the rest of his body concealed behind the frame. "Of course. I need to see how it sits. Do you like it so far?"
"It looks fantastic. It's just…" he grinned at her and winked. "I know how much trouble you have with bare shoulders and—"
She gave him a blase look. "I can handle it. You're not that good looking," she teased.
"They don't call me a teen heartthrob for nothing," he said.
"I've never called you that."
"Don't say I didn't warn you."
He did warn her. He really did. And she should've listened.
The belt of the harem pants sat snuggly around his waist and yet her eyes only lingered there for a short time. The vest barely covered any of his chest and it was there her eyes decided to rest. So much skin. Belly skin. Hips and waist and slight definition in his muscles. Chest skin. Biceps. He looked good. He knew he looked good. He was a model and he worked hard on his appearance. She hadn't been prepared and she should've because she designed the damn thing. What was she thinking?
Her cheeks went pink and she clicked her jaw shut so she wasn't gaping at him.
Marinette tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. The costume still needed work. It lacked embroidery. It lacked the bells she wanted to attach to the black vest or the green skirting she wanted to add to the edges. The belt hadn't been finished. All the accessories need work. The vest was lopsided, not enough for anyone else to notice. Did she do that? Or was he wearing it wrong?
She prowled, circling around him as she studying her handiwork.
Above them, the kwami zipped and zoomed around the room as Tikki and Deedee chased Plagg down.
"Wow, that was quick," Adrien said over his shoulder.
"What was?" she asked absently. His ankles were level, which was good, but she'd have to get down and check. The vest seemed to sit well on the back.
"The switch from flustered, drooling girlfriend to budding fashion designer. I was hoping for a little bit longer of flustered girlfriend."
It could be taken in a little at the hips, which would make the harem pants sit a little higher. "Is it comfortable?" she asked, standing behind him. "If you do the hip thing."
"Shimmy?" he asked and raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure want me to?"
"I need to make sure it won't fall down. You still need a full range of movement."
He rested on hand on his cocked hip. "I'm more worried if you'll fall down. The look in your eyes is somewhat predatory."
He wiggled and Marinette forgot to look at how the pants sat on his hips in favour of something more enticing.
Deedee abandoned her Plagg chase. "Adrien! That looks fabulous!"
Adrien lifted his hand so Deedee could land on it. "Look at you! Marinette did an amazing job."
Deedee preened. "She's wonderful."
Marinette blinked. "Huh?"
His smug smirk said he knew exactly what he did to her.
"Got you!" Tikki shrieked and a black and red ball of squirming kwami plopped onto Adrien's bed. "Deedee! Get it!"
Plagg howled and thrashed. "I don't want it!"
Deedee zipped away and Adrien turned to face Marinette. "It's astonishing. I wear a skin tight suit and you're drooling over this."
"Am not," she said and wiped her mouth anyway.
Adrien smiled. "So, were my measurements in those magazines of yours?"
She stepped up to him. "Can I—?" she asked and gestured his chest.
He leant toward her and drawled, "You can put your hands wherever you like."
She blinked owlishly at him. "Really?"
His cheeks went red. "I mean. Wherever you're comfortable. I… ahh… I mean, of course, there's out of bounds places and—"
She lifted the edges of his vest and pulled them together, tugging him forward a little. "Looks like I'm not the only one who gets flustered."
Adrien swallowed, his eyes following her every move.
"So," she said, fussing with the way the vest sat. She smoothed it down at the shoulders and tugged so it no longer sat lopsided. She pinched the seam, lifting it up to see if it looked better taken in more, then dropped it. "Is it comfortable? I've never made anything like this before."
"Yeah," he said and his voice was husky.
She slid her hands down his arms to his elbows and lifted them both out, watching how the vest fell with the movement.
"Do you want me to pose?" he asked.
"I'm after natural movement," she replied.
"Yeah, 'cause me being a scarecrow is natural."
"I'm sure you've been fitted before, Adrien."
"Not by you," he replied. "And don't think I don't feel your hands lingering."
"What can I say," she said, pinching his side seam. "Not everyone gets to have their hands on a teen heartthrob."
"So you do think I'm hot."
"I also think you're kind, loving and sometimes tell funny jokes," she said, reaching into her pocket for chalk. "Your so-called hotness is just a bonus."
"Only sometimes?" he pouted and lowered his arms.
"Arms up," she said, studying the hemming beneath his arm. "Yes, only sometimes. Your bread puns, for example, are terrible and should never again grace my ears."
"You're just crusty—"
"Oh Plagg, you look adorabee!" Deedee said.
Adrien and Marinette looked over toward the bed. Deedee and Tikki floated around while Plagg sulked while wearing the bright red vest Marinette had made for him. The poor kwami looked so putout by the whole affair, Marinette wondered why he hadn't simply shredded the vest with his claws.
"I knew they'd get him eventually," Adrien said, chortling.
"It was inevitable."
"You didn't answer my question."
"Which one was that?"
"Are my measurements in a magazine?"
"Not… no? I don't think so."
"You have a good eye then."
She made a few chalk reference marks and made sure the other side was the same, then looked down. "And the pants?" She ran her finger underneath the hem around his waist to check tightness and Adrien squirmed and made a high-pitched burst of laughter.
Marinette giggled. "You're not being very professional, Adrien."
"Sorry," he said and cleared his throat, forcing himself still. "Ticklish."
Marinette hesitated, her fingers still inside the belt of his pants.
"Well. Um. I… kinda wanna explore that, but the stitching is flimsy so I can alter it and I imagine you're a squirmer."
Adrien's eyes blew wide. "What a shame you won't find out."
He lifted his hands to place them on her hips. "Are you ticklish?"
She grinned at him. "Nope." She glanced down at the harem pants again. "I think I have everything. You can get changed."
"You don't want to see me dance in this?" he asked, pouting.
"No," she replied, splaying her hands over his chest. "Flimsy stitching, remember? Go get changed and then dance for me."
He ducked his head down and Marinette lifted her chin, her eyes closing. She rested her hand on his bare stomach as he gathered her up, his lips locked on hers. There was no prelude to the hunger in his kiss, no little pecks which slowly became deeper, he dove straight in and dragged her in with him.
He broke away to kiss his way down her jaw, whispering between kisses. "Oh, I see. Easy access vest."
"It's a purr-k," she told him.
His hands gripped her hips, pulling her closer while his mouth found hers again.
A soft knock at the door interrupted them. "Adrien, do you have a minute?" Gabriel called.
Marinette yelped and danced away from Adrien, who let out a soft sigh. Arms dangling by his sides, he called, "Come in."
Gabriel opened the door, talking as he walked into the room, "I was hoping we could— what? What are you wearing?"
Blush blooming so hard it spread down her neck, Marinette pressed her lips together. She wondered how embarrassing it would be if she hid behind the sofa.
"Deedee taught me how bees dance," Adrien said, sounding proud. "So Marinette made costumes."
"I don't like mine," Plagg announced. "I don't want to wear it."
Gabriel's wide-eyes flicked from Adrien, to Plagg, to Deedee and Tikki who were dancing around each other above the pouting Plagg, then to Marinette, who decided to fiddle with her jacket rather than hide.
"Mine's not finished," Adrien said. "We're just doing a fitting."
Gabriel lifted a finger and gestured for Adrien to turn, which he did so, grinning broadly and winking at Marinette on the way around.
"They're… just a bit of fun," Marinette said, completely embarrassed.
Deedee and Tikki danced down, zipping around Gabriel. "Look at us!" Deedee said twirling and waggling so hard she couldn't keep a straight path. "We're so pretty."
"Very nice," Gabriel said, giving Deedee and Tikki glance as he studied Adrien's outfit. "I assume bee dances are similar to belly dancing."
Deedee waggled. "Yes. Adrien is very good."
"I'm not surprised. Ferris taught Aurelie a peacock dance and I do recall her teaching Adrien when he was a toddler."
Deedee giggled. "Oh, Ferris' dance is amazing. His peas use their arms a lot more than my bees do, and it's a lot slower. We even have a dance we can do together!"
"Yes," Gabriel said, swallowing and changing the topic. "Well. Marinette, may I see the final design?"
"I… sure," Marinette replied, rummaging through her bag for her sketchbook. She flipped through until she reached the page with her designs for Adrien's suit on it and handed it to Gabriel.
"I tried to go for something Adrien would like," Marinette said, feeling scrutinised.
"And the bell?"
Marinette flushed. "And… something I would like too."
Gabriel laughed under his breath.
"It's not meant to be a serious design, it's meant to be—"
"Don't sell yourself short," Gabriel said. "Just because it's a fun design, doesn't mean you didn't put equal the amount of effort into researching and designing as you would for a serious design. Hand embroidery or machine?"
"Hand," Marinette said. "I don't have an embroidery machine and my machine doesn't cope with the chiffon very well."
"Yes, that can be quite difficult. It's an elegant outfit. You've never made anything like this before, have you?"
Marinette shook her head.
"You run the borderline between safe and too ambitious well. This pushes your skills without being overwhelming." He closed the sketchbook and returned it to Marinette. "I would be interested to see the final product, once it's complete."
Marinette clutched her notepad to her chest while Adrien smirked at his father. "Do you want me to dance for you too?"
Gabriel snorted and clasped his hands behind his back. "No. I think I can do without that particular image. You have one of the Mayor celebrations soon, don't you?"
Adrien glance at the time on his computer. "We have few hours. We were going to watch a movie first."
Gabriel nodded. "Well, do not let me take up any more of your time," he said and headed to the door. "Deedee, Tikki, you both look quite fetching."
The two kwami giggled together.
"Hey!" Plagg demanded. "What about me?"
Smiling, Gabriel said nothing and closed the door.
"I look good!" Plagg yelled and thumped the bed in a rage. "You're just too blind to see it!"
"Welcome, citizens of Paris!" Andre Bourgeois called into the microphone. "To the first night of Ladybug and Chat Noir week! I have planned a fun-filled, action-packed week ahead of you, ready to celebrate our victory with our heroes—"
Arms folded on his chest, Chat Noir leant over and put his mouth right beside Ladybug's ear to tell her over the noise of the crowd, "Anyone would think he defeated Papillon."
Ladybug smiled at him weakly as Chloé hung from Ladybug's neck and took selfies from every angle she could.
"We need one with all three of us!" Chloé announced, having captured the side of Chat Noir's face and nothing else.
Chat Noir wasted no time sliding behind the girls so he could stick his face between them and put his hands on their shoulders to smile charmingly at Chloé's phone. And because Ladybug knew how much Chloé meant to Chat Noir, she smiled too.
"Oh, this is perfect!" Chloé said, smiling at her phone as she stepped away from the pair. "I'm sending it to everyone I know. They'll be so jealous."
Chat Noir left his arm around Ladybug's shoulders as they waited in the shadows beside the stage to this event. Nothing which indicated they were a couple, just a friend draping his arm around another friend.
Pari Roller was their first public event. The weekly Friday night roller skating event already attracted tens of thousands participants, shutting down streets in favour of the blade. It was a highly anticipated event even when Ladybug and Chat Noir weren't leading the charge of racers. Starting beneath the Montparnasse building, its ever-changing path of eighteen miles wove through central Paris and along the Seine. On the nights it skated past Notre Dam and Collège Françoise Dupont, Alya and Nino often camped out on Marinette's terrace to watch, so it was fortunate the event didn't take them that route today.
"You know I'm going to kick your ass," Chat Noir said.
Tikki and Plagg, upon hearing the first of the Ladybug and Chat Noir events around Paris, had assured their young charges the suits could be modified to include inline skates. Marinette had been sceptical at first, not being the most graceful of skaters, but as usual, with the enhancement of the suit, her ability had improved enough to give her confidence in the race.
"You're going to try," Ladybug retorted.
"Who's the one with a ramp in his room?"
"Uh-huh." She lifted her hand to grip his bell. "I say, if we were in civilian clothing, yes, you'd kick my ass, but transformed…" she shrugged.
He smirked at her. "My ass is yours?"
She liked that phrase. "If you want to put it that way."
He shifted closer so his chest bumped against the back of her shoulder. "At least my view from behind will be mew-nificent."
She refused to let the light flush to her cheeks dissuade her from flirting with him. "Consolation prize. Oh, don't forget—"
He nodded. "Alya and Nino are waiting on Pont au Change and we have to stop for a quick interview."
"It's for her report," Ladybug reminded him. Alya had finally decided she was going to do her competition entry report on the defeat of Papillon, especially since she had exclusive footage of it, footage she'd been holding onto so she could use it in her report. Ladybug and Chat Noir had only decided to do a few interviews regarding the subject, and one of them was reserved for Alya, but that didn't mean they couldn't give her exclusive shots of them in the Pari Roller.
He nudged her. "I know. I was there. And your parents are further along, pretending to be you, so we have to let them take a picture too."
"No showing off."
"Nope," he said with a grin, his breath warm on her neck. "That wasn't part of the deal."
Chloé clicked the button on her phone to take a picture. "You two are getting cosy," she said, smiling coyly at them. "Anything to declare?"
Instead of pulling away like a scalding cat, Chat Noir just raised his eyebrow at her. "Yup. You're nosy."
"Can't deny that," Chloé replied. "But if I can get the scoop before Alya, I can rub her nose in it for years."
Chat Noir laughed. "No scoop. No news. It's hard to hear over the racket, that's all. Ladybug and I are making bets on who'll win."
"Ladybug," Chloé said with absolute certainty. "No doubt."
Chat Noir rolled his feet forward and back on the spot. "I'm going to give her a run for her money at least."
Ladybug twisted to face him and poked him in the chest. "You can try," she said. Steepling her fingers, she pushed away from him, sending herself rolling out onto the stage. She waved to the sudden screaming from the crowd of skaters, setting her feet into a spread eagle as she looped around the podium Andre stood at, trying to deliver his speech.
Andre gave her a stern look and Ladybug understood that. He'd been in the middle of a big speech and she'd basically ruined it. Well, the speech was boring and she wanted to race.
Caught in her enthusiasm, Chat Noir skated out behind her, gliding around Andre in the opposite direction Ladybug circled. He waved happily to the crowd of people and winked at Ladybug. On the second revolution around the still talking Andre, Chat Noir grabbed Ladybug as she skated by him and spun them both in a circle. She eeped as his hand splayed against the small of her back and she was pressed against his chest. He lifted her hand, threading their fingers and suddenly Chat Noir and Ladybug were waltzing around the stage together instead of skating.
"This is what I meant by no showing off," Ladybug said. "Or did you forget?"
In answer, he twirled her beneath his arm. "Gotta play the crowd."
"You really don't," she said, releasing his fingers to twist away. She skated backwards around the stage, thankful there were no cords lying around and then came to a stop.
Chat Noir grinned at her and gave her a two fingered salute. Skating up to Andre, he bounced up onto the little podium and took the bendable lectern microphone, pointing it toward his mouth. "Hello, Paris! How are we this fine evening?"
Andre reached over to pry the microphone back, "How nice of you to—"
Chat Noir pulled the microphone away from Andre. "Ladybug and I have a little wager on tonight's race," he continued. "Care to know what that is?"
The responding scream from the crowd was enough that Andre tossed up his hands and moved away from the podium.
Ladybug crossed her arms over her chest as she looked at Chat Noir. "We do?"
He winked at her. "Now, obviously, we cannot beat the fine competitors who participate in this every week, novice skaters that we are, but we certainly can race each other. So, to make this interesting, we made a little bet, do you want to hear?" He cupped his hand around his cat ear, listening for the screams.
Ladybug raised her eyebrow at him.
Chat Noir patted both hands in the air to calm the crowd. "Okay, okay. Here's the bet. If she wins, I promise to stop serenading, aka 'kitty screaming'—" he used air quotes, "—whatever that is, during the night for a whole month."
She ducked up to the microphone so she could tease him. "His version of singing really is a kitty-yowl."
He waved her away with his hands. "Shhh, shhh, my turn." Turning back to the microphone. "If I win, my lady is going to let me kiss her."
"On the cheek," she hurried, ducking past him again.
Chat Noir pouted at her. "Aww."
She poked him in the nose, pushing him away from the microphone. "How about we get this race started?"
One of the marshals stepped forward to remind people of the rules. Chat Noir and Ladybug jumped down from the podium and into a part in the crowd of skaters. Marshals rimmed the parting, allowing Chat Noir and Ladybug to glide their way through to the starting line. Skaters held out their hands for the pair to slap on the way past. They stopped many times up the line, signing shirts or notepads. They signed as much as they could before marshals began to usher them further.
Chat Noir turned to skate sideways so he could grin at her. "Did you like that bet?"
"Good incentive for me to win," she told him, her hands behind her back.
"You like my kitty yowling," he said.
"Only sometimes," she said.
The path behind them closed as marshals headed out to their appointed areas. A lot of the marshals would be skating along with the group of races to help keep order and offer first aid if necessary, but others headed to stations around Paris.
Ladybug skittered closer to Chat Noir as the crowd of skaters closed in around them. "We're going to lose each other in the mayhem."
Chat Noir extended his hand for her to take. "Just for the start, if it makes you feel better."
Smiling, Ladybug scooted behind him and grabbed his tail. "I have a better idea."
Ignoring the burst of laughter from the skaters around them, Chat Noir gave her a flat, over-the-shoulder stare. "Really?"
She wrapped the end of it around her hand. "Really."
"Ow," he whined.
"Don't be a baby. It doesn't hurt." She gave a tug. "Mush."
"That's a dog, not a cat."
"Can't you hack it, Chat?" someone in the crowd said and Ladybug smiled as she recognised Alix's voice.
Chat Noir's smirk grew large. "I can hack anything my lady dishes out," he called.
One of the marshals appeared out of the crowd to usher them beyond the starting line. "Ladybug, Chat Noir, you're supposed to lead the charge from out there."
Chat Noir skated forward, pulling Ladybug along with him. "We get a head start?"
"I suppose it gives people an incentive to pass us," Ladybug said, grinning and waving cheekily to the crowd as she got a free ride.
Chat Noir grinned and pulled her into a large, looping circle around the front of the crowd. In a deft turn, he danced so he was skating backwards and drew her into his embrace. The crowd whooped and cheered as they waltzed around the starting line.
"You are such a flirt," Ladybug said, concentrating on her feet and moving with him. He was grace, she was an awkward bug, but he did a good job of covering that for her.
"I like dancing with you," he said and his smile made her heartbeat stutter, then pick up the pace. "We should do more of it."
"Bee dancing or dancing-dancing?"
"Both. Anything. As long as it's with you."
"You're giddy," she said.
Grasping her hips, he picked her up and lifted her into the air while the crowd cheered. "Papillon's gone. Plagg's back. Deedee's in my pocket and I'm dancing with the love of my life. What could be more perfect than that?"
Struggling with her composure as he put her back on the ground, she chided, "You're really not doing a good job at pretending."
The hand on her back pulled her closer. "Maybe I was wrong about that." Aligning their bodies so she was pressed up against him, he set them into an easy glide.
The wind carried the scent of him and the heat of his body made it hard for her to keep her head. "You weren't," she said. "At least for a while."
His lips curved up to smirk at her. "Just friends."
"Yup. The best of friends."
"Okay," he said, releasing her back. In a deft move, he twirled her under his arm, then shoved her back toward the crowd of skaters watching them dance and sprinted away. "Catch me if you can!"
She skidded, her arms flailing, before twisting so she could charge after him. "Chat Noir! You get back here!"
Chat Noir's laughter filled the night air.
Kry's ending note:
Strictly speaking, last chapter would've been a perfect place to end Sting, but I couldn't let Moon win her 29 Chapter bet. So bonus chapter of fun and romance!
Thus concludes Sting. I really hope you all have enjoyed my work, I've had a lot of fun writing Sting and meeting such wonderful people, and seeing old fans still following my work! It's amazing feeling to have such a wonderful fanbase. Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed, kudos, faved, plugged my story to their followers, PM'ed or drawn art for Sting.
If you're not already following my tumblr (kryallaorchid. tumblrdotcom), please do. I have an original novel coming out soon! I've set myself a self-publishing date of Christmas at the latest. I can't give you any more information here, as it's prohibited by the terms of service so any and all information will be found there.
Thank you for letting me share my imagination with you!