"You don't strike me as a professional criminal."
He grinned (or at least, it sounded like he did, she couldn't tell, but with him it was usually a pretty safe bet). "That's what makes me so good at it."
Marinette eyed the pink lump on the balcony beside her, looking extremely skeptical. "And what exactly have you done that makes you so felonious?"
"You mean felineous?" Marinette, picturing the stupid look on his face, resisted the urge to throw him over the railing for the second time that evening. "I am a master thief," continued the boy under the blanket, and she could imagine him rubbing his hands together like a villain from a movie.
"So, what have you stolen? I thought you were supposed to be the 'hero of Paris' or something." She couldn't resist using finger quotes, knowing that her partner couldn't see her. Even as Marinette, her Ladybug side couldn't help but to leak out when Noir was around, and thankfully he never seemed to notice.
"Me? A hero? No way, that's Ladybug's job, she's way better at being heroic than I am. I just swing in and make everything look cool, all the while stealing the hearts of every bachelorette in the country."
"Stealing the hear- Chat!" Marinette, finally getting his joke, reached over and wacked his cloth-covered shoulder. "Is your kwami-thing done yet?"
Chat Noir, after making his getaway from the most recent akuma, had cut it too close and detransformed before he made it home (Ladybug had left slightly earlier, hoping to beat her own clock, and he assumed that she had). He had crash-landed on the rooftop of his classmate, and hearing footsteps, he had stolen a light-pink blanket off the nearby sunchair and hidden himself underneath it just as Marinette had opened the trapdoor. He knew that Chat Noir on her balcony would be hard to explain, but Adrien Agreste on her balcony would be next to impossible. To say she was surprised to find a person under a blanket on her roof was definitely an understatement – the blue-haired girl had quite literally jumped, accidentally throwing her book several feet behind her and almost falling back through the trapdoor herself.
"Hello?" She had sounded defensive, and Adrien, knowing full well that she could potentially throw him off the roof if she wanted, did some very quick thinking.
"Marinette, it's me, Chat Noir! My transformation wore off after the akuma attack, and my kwami needs some help before I can transform again."
"My kwami – he helps me with my powers and stuff like that. He needs food of some kind before he can transform me back."
"Cheese!" A tiny voice had shouted, and Marinette, laughing, had taken her book safely back to her room and soon returned with the requested cured dairy, passing it under the borrowed blanket to the blond superhero.
Now, she sat beside the lump, waiting for his cat-like kwami to recharge (she knew exactly was a kwami was, but he didn't need to know that). When she had gone through her room to get to the kitchen, she had explained the situation to Tikki, who had broken down into giggles at the thought of Chat Noir stuck under a blanket until Plagg got what he wanted. While waiting for the kwami to re-charge, Marinette sat cross-legged beside her partner on the roof, chatting the time away. Her parents had gone out for an anniversary dinner shortly before his arrival, so the house was quiet. Fortunately, the odd lump on the roof went unnoticed by pedestrians on the sidewalk below, who were either in a hurry to get home after a long workday or busy talking on their phone, gossiping about the latest akuma attack and the struggle experienced by Ladybug and Chat Noir to take them down. The sun was low in the sky, projecting that last of the day's warmth onto the rooftop balcony where the pair sat.
"So, other than being a heart thief, what do you like most about being a superhero?"
"What is this, 20 questions?" Came the muffled reply, followed by "Plagg, we don't have all day, you know!"
"Yeah, yeah, I know I know." The smaller voice of the kwami was stifled as well, but Marinette guessed that this was due at least partly to the cheese in his mouth (she had brought Camembert at Tikki's suggestion, much to Plagg's delight – it was getting old, and no one in her house liked it much anyway).
"You never answered my question, Chat. What is the best part?" She expected him to say freedom, or fame, or super strength, or even the black leather suit and ears, but she was not at all prepared for what he actually said, stated so simply that it seemed there was never any other option.
The girl in question, much to her own embarrassment, blushed (not that he could see her, but still).
"Ladybug?" He had spoken so matter-of-factly that it was no denying that he was sincere, but she had to ask anyway, her arms waving awkwardly in the air in true Marinette form. "Why, uh, why Ladybug?"
"She's my partner, my other half. She's the peanut butter to my jelly, the Sherlock to my Watson, the ranch to my cheese pizza, the Ginny to my Harry – in a word, she's perfect."
"Perfect, we'll get back to," the heroine started, looking concerned, "but ranch on pizza? Seriously? What kind of monster are you!?" Marinette, even though she was flattered by his description, simply could not move on until she had confronted this culinary cat-astrophe.
"You don't eat ranch with pizza? It's the best part!" As she was still struggling to process this, she heard him mutter, "Plagg, you've had long enough – claws out!" Moments later, a transformed Chat Noir was sitting beside her, the pink blanket wrapped around his shoulders like a cape. Marinette looked out across the city with a serious expression and responded in a deadpan voice, leaning back on her hands as she looked up.
"Chat Noir, we can no longer be friends."
He put his hand to his heart dramatically and gasped. "My dear lady, how ever could you say a thing like that!"
"Cold ranch and melted cheese, Noir." She looked at him for the first time, refusing to smile as he positively beamed at her. "That's an abomination if I've ever heard one. It's a fundamental, irreversible, unforgivable, prophesies-never-coming-true character flaw." He raised his eyebrows and frowned, trying (and failing) to match her serious demeaner. "Even Ladybug would agree it was a deal-breaker, trust me."
"Wanna know what I think?" Noir leaned closer, his stupid smile making its way back onto his face.
"What?" Marinette, knowing that she was fighting a losing battle, could feel the corners of her lips start to twitch.
"I think that you have never truly lived, Miss Dupain-Cheng, until you have eaten pizza and ranch in the same bite."
"Pizza is good, ranch is good, pizza and ranch together just take a double positive and make it a negative." Her jaw was tense in her fight to appear stoic.
"A double negative can make a positive, and a positive and a negative can make a negative, but a double positive can't make a negative! It goes against the basic laws of math and physics…and humanity!"
Marinette crossed her arms and rolled her eyes, avoiding his gaze (and therefore, his dopy smile), and followed up with the best response she could think of, which pawsitively dripped in sarcasm.
Chat Noir opened his mouth to retaliate, then stopped. Did Marinette Dupain-Cheng just make a pun? And a fantastical, grammatical pun at that?! (If you do not understand this pun, see the note at the bottom of the story)
"You know," he said, mimicking her pose, "I think I've changed my mind about the best part of being a superhero."
"Oh?" Marinette was both intrigued and confused as to how they got back to heroism from his cheesy infraction. She finally relaxed and gave a half-smile, putting her hands on the brick behind her and leaning back again with her legs straight out in front her her. "And what would that be?"
"It's a tie," he stated, pulling the blanket tighter around his shoulders.
"You and Ladybug."
"Ladybug and me? How on Earth do I compare to Ladybug? I'm not exactly a superhero, you know."
She glanced over briefly to find Chat Noir looking at her like she had completely missed the point, arms tucked into the rosy fabric that surrounded him as he sat cross-legged beside her. She looked away, fighting the red that insisted on creeping up her face at his description of his partner. "It's not about being a hero, Marinette. You don't have to be fearless to be brave, and you don't have to risk your life to have a heart of gold. Ladybug may be the other half to Chat Noir, but I'm someone under the mask too, just like she is, and that boy could really use a friend or two these days." She looked over at him, finally letting herself fully smile as he looked her in the eye and went on. "If I had never become Chat Noir, I would've never gotten to know you, or hear you tell terrible puns, or watch your whole face light up when you laugh. Not getting to know you, Marinette? That, my friend, is the true abomination in this world, regardless of your feelings on certain unnamed food combinations."
"Pizza and ranch should be illegal," Marinette muttered, smiling and nudging his shoulder with hers to show her gratitude. They sat in silence for several minutes, both recovering from the adrenaline rush of the afternoon. The sun was truly setting now, and a light breeze picked up as the evening began to fade. Marinette pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs, refusing to admit that she was starting to get cold. It was rare that she got to see her partner so calm, and she wasn't about to miss it because she was a little chilly. She heard a slight rustle next to her, then found that her blanket, which had previously pretected the identity of the hero beside her, was now being wrapped around her shoulders. She grabbed the corners gratefully, and smiled as he carefully inched closer to sit with his shoulder against hers putting his hands out behind him and leaning back so that they were almost, but not quite, touching.
Marinette sighed in content as the sky melted from pink to purple. She slid down and found herself with her head on her partner's shoulder, who was careful not to move (like when a cat lets you pet them and you don't want to scare them off, thought Marinette with a smile). They sat, leaning up against each other, and watched as the last of the sun faded and the moon started to shine, full and bright in the velvety-blue sky.
As the stars began to shine, Chat Noir sighed, knowing that he had to go before he was missed at home. Marinette, hearing him breathe, smiled and sat up, knowing what he was thinking. He stood up slowly and stretched, pulling his baton from the loop on his back.
"Thanks for letting me borrow your roof, Mari," he said, reaching down to ruffle her hair.
She ducked his hand and stood up as he balanced on the railing, pulling the blanket around her shoulders like a cape. It smelled like him now, a wonderful combination of pine lotion and apple shampoo, with just a touch of hairspray. "Come back some time if you want – just don't bring any food with you, okay?"
He laughed and shook his head, still in denial of her claims of outrage. He stood on the edge of the roof and turned to face her. Holding his extended baton like a formal cane, he bowed and tipped an imaginary hat. Marinette curtsied back, using the blanket around her as a skirt.
"See ya around, Chat Noir."
"Goodnight, m'lady." He winked and tipped backward, letting himself fall off the roof dramatically before kicking off the wall and flipping to land on his feet on the sidewalk below. He looked up and gave her a two-finger salute before bounding off through the streets of Paris, startling several remaining pedestrians along the way. Marinette watched him go, then looked up at the stars around her and smiled.
"Goodnight, partner…and thank you."
For the "double positive" pun, the words 'yeah' and 'right' are both generally used to convey agreement or are used to affirm that someone is correct about something ("Did I do this correctly?" "Yeah, you're right!"). When you put them together, however, it becomes sarcastic and negative, especially if you add an eye roll - "yeah, right." Do you have a favorite pun? Do you want to see it in a story? Let me know, and thanks for reading!