Chat smiled at Ladybug as he crouched on a beam above her on the Eiffel Tower. She gazed intently at the city gleaming below her, oblivious to the equally intent stare of Chat.
"All clear," she stated. "You?"
"I see nothing dangerous," Chat purred.
Ladybug glanced up at him. "You seem content tonight," she remarked.
Chat flicked his tail and hummed in agreement.
"Well, if you don't see anything, I guess we can call it a night. Sleep well, Chat."
"You, too, m'lady," Chat said, but he made no move to leave. Instead, he watched as Ladybug gracefully leapt away and disappeared over the skyline. He grinned and hummed snatches of song to himself as he watched the stars. Dawn was peeping over the horizon before he lighted in his room. He de-transformed and climbed into bed for a brief rest before he began his civilian life of school, hobbies, classes and photoshoots.
* * *
Marinette's alarm beeped insistently. She rolled out of bed groaning, and threw on her clothes. She glanced at the now silent clock as she grabbed her purse and schoolbag. Noticing how late it was, she suddenly became energized as she threw open the trapdoor in her floor, clattered downstairs, grabbed a pastry, and slammed the patisserie door behind her.
A few moments later, she slid into her desk next to Alya. Nino sat in front of her, but Adrien's seat was empty.
"Where's Adrien?" Marinette poked Alya.
"I don't know, why?"
"Well, he's never late, and I just wondered..."
"Never late?" Alya interrupted incredulously. "Girl, the only person late more often than him is you! He's absent all the time!"
The girls' attention was drawn by the teacher beginning class. A few moments later, the classroom door opened and Adrien slipped quietly into his seat. Before he faced forward, though, he glanced at Marinette and smiled. Marinette's heart raced, and she didn't hear anything else for the rest of the class.
At break, Marinette and Alya stopped at their lockers to chat.
"Girl, did you see that smile? Looks like luck's finally going your way!" Alya pumped her fist in the air.
In reply, Marinette squealed and jumped up and down, a look of rapture on her face. Her eyes were screwed shut so tight, she didn't see Alya trying to gesture a quick warning to her.
"Hey, Alya. Hey Marinette." The voice lingered a fraction of a second on Marinette's name, and Marinette's heart did a somersault.
She turned slowly, and with averted eyes mumbled a greeting.
"Hey, Adrien," Alya said much more distinctly. "Yo, Marinette, catch you later. Left my history book in the art room." Alya dashed off before Marinette could stop her, but both she and Adrien noticed the history book tucked under Alya's arm.
Marinette's locker was still open, with a sketch she'd drawn that morning taped to the door for safekeeping. Adrien leaned over for a closer look.
"Marinette! Did you draw this? Did you design it yourself? It's amazing!"
Marinette blushed red as a ladybug. She watched Adrien take the drawing from her locker with minimal protest. She didn't really want him to see it, but she was too tongue-tied to do anything about it.
Adrien leaned against Alya's locker, a ray of sun making his hair glint gold and copper and his green eyes flash. Marinette wasn't sure if she was floating, but it sure felt like it.
The bell rang, and a scurry of students passed. Adrien handed the paper back to her and said, "I think that jacket would look perfect in denim." He flashed a grin that made Marinette wonder if he'd just made a cat pun, before turning and heading for the classroom.
Marinette glanced at the jacket, next to which was scrawled, "fabric??" Then she taped it back to the door and flew back to the classroom.
* * *
"It's in his pocket watch," Ladybug yelled at the top of her lungs. "Get it before he gets away!"
"On it, m'lady!" Chat leapt and dodged with the agility of his namesake.
Ladybug tossed her yo-yo and shouted, "Lucky Charm!" A red polka dot Frisbee appeared, and she looked thoughtfully at it. Then realisation dawned on her face. She threw the Frisbee with all her might, and it ricocheted off a billboard straight between the Timekeeper's legs. He tripped and fell with a thud. In a moment, Chat was crouched on his back, holding a purple pocket watch up to the light. Ladybug grabbed it and in a moment it was de-evilised and Paris was back to its healthy buzz.
"Pound it!" Chat Noir and Ladybug fistbumped, grinning. No matter how many people they rescued from Hawkmoth's Akumas, they never tired of working together.
Ladybug's earrings beeped, and she started to turn away, but Chat had her hand and held her back.
"My lady, I've been planning on telling you this the first chance I get. It won't take long," he added as he saw her reluctance. Assured of their privacy on the roof of a small patisserie, he spoke. "Ladybug," he faltered, looking away. His seriousness suddenly dropped away, and he looked Ladybug mischievously in the eye. "You're paw-sitively meow-velous at your work, Bugaboo!"
He leapt up and vaulted over a building, leaving an irritated Ladybug to wonder what had come over him.
A few buildings away, Chat sat nervously flicking his tail. He'd lost his courage at the moment before he opened up and told Ladybug what he'd been dying to tell her for a while. When would he get over it and tell her? He now had two things he needed to tell her, but only one of them would come out; and he couldn't tell her he loved her if she didn't know the truth about the other thing.
~ ~ ~
A few days before, Chat Noir had been traversing the rooftops of Paris, breathing the crisp freedom he only had in Chat form. Somehow, he'd ended up on a roof across from the Dupaine-Cheng Patisserie, owned by the parents of a girl in his class. He sat trying to decide if he should de-transform and go buy a treat, when a flash of red on the patisserie roof caught his eye. He hid behind one of the many unexplained things on the roofs of Paris. When he saw that the red thing was Ladybug, he almost came out, but in a flash of light, suddenly it was Marinette standing on the balcony roof. He stood, unable to comprehend what he was seeing, until Marinette disappeared. A few moments later, she reappeared on the street below.
Chat had followed her to the park and hidden in a tree. She spread out the blanket and began sketching and munching some sweets she'd brought from the patisserie.
All afternoon, Chat Sat watching her. Then he went home, de-transformed, fed Plagg, and closed all the windows on his computer. They had been filled with Ladybug identity speculations. He flopped into bed and slept for nine hours straight.
The next morning Adrien awoke feeling as if something big had happened. He lay in bed, trying to remember what it was. Happening to glance over at his desk, he saw his computer and it all came flooding back.
Picturing Marinette, he realised how obvious it was. The blue-black pigtails, the face, the build. He considered their personalities. Though Ladybug was more confident and open, Adrien realised the same was true about himself in Chat Noir form.
When he got to class later, he sat down in his normal seat in front of Marinette and watched nervously for her to come. A few minutes after class started, she did arrive. He tried to catch her eye long enough to smile at her, but when he finally did catch her eye, she looked away quickly before sliding into the bench behind him.
After class, which Adrien hadn't paid attention to, he watched Marinette and Alya talking in front of their lockers. He almost decided to go talk with them, but decided against it. Instead, he waited until patrol that night when he could have a mask between himself and embarrassment.
~ ~ ~