Adrien loves a lot of things about being Chat Noir. The power, the freedom, the action. But he what he did not love, was doing this. Stormy Weather hisses and resists the entire way as he drags her to the recovery room. Being responsible for enraged Akumas is comparable to babysitting a toddler. That is, if said toddler has super strength, agility, and a general interest in maiming people. He huffs in irritation and exertion as he straps her onto the hospital bed, securing her arms and legs so she wouldn't cause any more harm to others or herself. "That's enough from you, Coldilocks," he mutters to himself. He watches his father's symbol light up on her face one last time, before Hawkmoth finally deems it appropriate to release her transformation. Stormy Weather disappears in a pulse of purple mist, leaving only a confused and dazed Aurore. She asks the usual questions he'd grown to expect from a first-time akuma. He tries to answer her with compassion, but his mind and heart are elsewhere.
Where am I? "You're in one of our recovery rooms. It is recommended that you spend at least thirty minutes here to recuperate and reflect on your training, but you can leave anytime."
What happened? "You were akumatized by Hawkmoth. You battled against The Pharaoh and won. Congrats. It's normal to have a foggy memory of the events. To help with this, you can watch a recording of it, on that screen there." He gestures to the flat screen mounted to the ceiling above her.
Did I hurt anyone? He waits expectantly for her to ask, but it never comes. Instead, she asks, "How do I turn it on?
"What?" he blinks.
"The recording. I want to watch it."
Of course, he winces. She's that kind of Akuma. Ruthlessly competitive, both in and out of her transformations. She cares more about her performance than her opponent's welfare. He hands her the remote and undoes her bindings. "Anything else?"
Aurore merely shakes her head, already absorbed in the events replaying on the screen. Chat Noir frowns slightly, then exits, shutting the door on his way out. I'd better check on Jalil next. He starts walking to the medical bay where the redhead is undoubtedly having a less than pleasant time. Guilt catches up to him as his thoughts return to his recent blunder. He allowed himself to be distracted. If he'd been doing his job properly he'd have noticed Jalil's detransformation and been there to protect him before he could get hurt. Though, to be fair, it was quite the surprise seeing a classmate here. And Marinette, at that. He baffles himself trying to picture his shy, kind-hearted peer getting scouted. Even the idea of her attending one of the seminars seemed out of character. Although, she has been uncharacteristically downtrodden lately. Now that he thinks about it, tonight was the happiest she had looked for months. That more than anything is what perplexes him.
Members of the Creators of the Miraculous consist of ambitious, open-minded individuals who are willing to take risks and work hard to improve themselves. That is the ideal, at least. In practice, all Chat Noir sees is selfishness. They are greedy people who are set on hoarding as much influence as they can. Even Chat Noir himself is no exception. Now that he's had a taste of being Miraculous he has no intention of ever releasing that power willingly. Gaining the abilities of an Akuma or Miraculous is akin to taking a bite of the forbidden fruit. It opens your eyes. It provides you with limitless potential. But…it ultimately fails to satisfy. He recalls countless nights of watching the crowd and only seeing leers and smirks, their hearts set on chasing their desires in a perpetual rat race. When he spotted Marinette tonight, he saw none of that—only joy and wonder. It sparked something in him. It planted a little sprout of warmth in his heart.
Hawkmoth has always claimed his organization is intended to inspire self-mastery and fulfillment, but Chat Noir has always been skeptical—of both his father's benevolent intentions and their curriculum's ability to bring about such things. After witnessing a fragment of those goals come to fruition in Marinette, he thinks he may have been too harsh. If this place can make her smile like that, we must be doing something right, he affirms. His steps are a pinch livelier as he strides towards the med bay. He halts his approach when he spots Nathalie standing in its doorway, clearly expecting him.
"What have you got for me?" he asks. Her presence here can only mean his "boss" Hawkmoth has another task for him.
"We've got an infiltrator. She spilled about her intention to report on everything she can find. It's the first time that bugged room has been useful. The girl's name is Alya Cesaire. Her address and additional info are in this file. She's not much of a threat, but we'd like you to…discourage her from her wrongdoing. You know what to do." He nods and numbly collects the file. She continues, "I trust you won't have trouble finding the place?"
"I'll manage. Who's going to handle Kalil if I'm leaving?"
"Lila," she answers, giving him a stern look at his eyeroll. "You may not like her, but she's good at what she does. If you weren't so contrary you might learn a something from her."
"I'm just going to leave and pretend I didn't hear that," he retreats towards his destination. He feels uneasy leaving Jalil with that woman. As far as Akumas go, the redhead is one of the more down-to-earth and caring. Unfortunately, those qualities make him ill-prepared to deal with Volpina's wiles. He mentally shakes himself off, Kalil will be fine. He's a grown man, he doesn't need a babysitter. At least, not now that he's de-transformed. What I really need to be worried is about Alya. Two classmates in one night. It wouldn't be a coincidence that the pair showed up at the same time, they must've come together. I guess that solves the mystery of how Mari got here. He doesn't know either of them particularly well, but he knows Alyais driven enough to sniff The Creators out and drag her friend along with her for the ride. He isn't used to mixing his personal life with his professional one. Targeting a fellow student on his mission feels about as pleasant as running into your elderly teacher while speed-dating. These outings into the Paris Nights are the closest thing to free-time Adrien has. His nose crinkles as he begrudgingly accepts that this mission will be less consequence-free than usual.
The elevator chimes and transports him to the roof of the nightclub. The blonde takes a deep breath as he steps into the moonlight. He savors every moment away from people's judging eyes.
All day, every day, only his best behavior. His father would accept nothing less. It paints a lovely picture…the affluent designer and his model son. They were beyond suspicion. They were safe atop the pedestal the public put them on. So long as neither of them did anything to draw scrutiny, their reputation stays clean from any association with The Creators of the Miraculous. The Agreste brand remains spotless. He understands why it's necessary, but…
He sighs, bringing his clawed fingers up to trace his mask. He can only truly be himself when he's disguised. The irony isn't lost on him. He extends his arms towards the sky in a languid stretch, extending his staff as they swing back to his sides. A cool breeze tousles his hair. Enough cat-itude. I've got a mole to hunt. If a passerby were to look up at just the right instant, they would perceive a mere outline of a shadow against the cloudy night sky, bounding from roof to roof with inhuman agility. Said passerby would probably experience fear. Perhaps even question their sanity, or sobriety. However, on this night as all others, there were no especially perceptive passerby's and Chat Noir traverses the streets of Paris entirely unobserved.
He pauses once he finds himself against the brick of Alya's apartment complex. I'll need to be stealthy. Can't bring her family into this. He shimmies to the nearest window, tentatively peering inside. The lights are off, but he can make out two beds and a clutter of toys. Not this one. He continues until he reaches the best candidate: a colorful, organized room with a full-sized bed. He gently eases himself onto the balcony and tries the lock on the glass door. To his delight, it slides open. Guess she wasn't too concerned about break-ins on a third story balcony. I imagine she'll keep it locked from now on. He pads into the center of the room, scanning her possessions. Books, a backpack, ah, a laptop. Essential for a journalist. Good place to start. He opens it, hoping to gain access to her files. He is met with a lock screen, the password hint only "you know what it is…". You've got to be kitten me, Alya. Not helpful. Chat Noir may have many a wide array of skills, but hacking is not one of them. He'll have to deal with it the old-fashioned way. "Cataclysm," he whispers, keeping an eye on the door as he swats the computer with his glowing claw. The laptop disintegrates into a delicate pile of dust on her desk. It's just enough evidence to suggest that something was once there, but not enough to prove foul play. The perfect balance. It isn't complete yet, he ponders. If she likes solving mysteries so much, I'll leave one for her. He turns to the large map of Paris on the opposite wall, sharpie in hand. It is already covered in pins and pen marks, all related to the movements and activities of The COM. His own puzzle mimics her notations, loosely related and spread out, but ultimately coalescing on a single point. Instead of the hidden headquarters, the notes would all lead to a funeral home and mortuary.
He nods approvingly at his work. He was sure Alya would take the hint and try harder to keep herself and Marinette out of trouble. The muffled click of a deadbolt unlocking interrupts Chat double-checking his work. He scurries out and onto the roof, barely slipping away before the door opens.
"Damn it!" he curses, fleeing the scene. It was a close call. He catches his breath on a roof several blocks away. Chat Noir sits cross legged, chin in his hands. Overall, he feels rather discontented with the evening. Not just because of his rushed exit. He gets the nagging sense that he needs to make another stop. He stands up and paces. Hawkmoth won't mind if I stay out awhile longer. The job's done, he's got what he wanted, that's all he'll care about. There's just a little something I need to check on. Or rather, someone. If Alya was just getting home, that means Marinette must be home too. And this cat has many curiosities that need satisfying. Having made up his mind, he pounces, soaring through the streets until he's flanking her family's bakery. He approaches from the back of the building in case she's on her balcony. The precaution proves unnecessary as he spots the bluenette in her room. Still wearing her white dress from before, she's seated at one of her work desks, illuminated by a table lamp.
He swallows, throat suddenly dry as he takes her in. She's radiant. His cheeks color and he catches himself. Wait, no, not that kind of radiant. Though she is very pretty. She's just…beaming. Emanating warmth and positivity even as she's—he squints, straining his vision to see what she's working on—doing physics homework? Chat Noir almost laughs aloud. No one should look that happy while studying. Im-paw-sible. But here she is, cheerfully scribbling away at her assignment as if it were her favorite activity in the world. He tries to recall that last time he'd seen someone exude such pure, unadulterated joy. His lids slip closed. He envisions it's himself resting on Marinette's pink bed instead of the cat plushie. Like a lazy housecat, he'd nap and bask in her good mood as if she were the sun streaming in through the curtains. Maybe when she'd finished her work she'd let him rest on her lap and she'd scratch his ears, humming a soothing tune. A rumble builds in his chest. His body leans into the wall he's clinging to, the vibrations escalading into a full-blown purr.
A minute passes, and his eyes snap open. He nearly loses his grip on the bricks as his flustered mind grasps what he'd been doing. He covers his mouth with his hands. Taking one last glimpse of Marinette, he concludes its time for him to go back. He's flushed with embarrassment as he retraces his path across Paris. I'm more affection-starved than I thought, he remarks abashedly, roping my school acquaintance into my fantasies just because her newfound cheeriness is contagious. Even though she wasn't harmed or affected by his thoughts, his guilt makes him want to make it up to her somehow.
As he reenters the headquarters, the perfect solution dawns on him. A way for him to help her, while she unknowingly helps him. The hierarchies of The Creators of the Miraculous can be a treacherous place to navigate. Especially unaided. If her happiness truly stems from her involvement with them, he can help her. Protect her from those that might try to tear her down or take advantage and guide her to the top. In return… he can get to know her. Spend time with her. She was something of a mystery to him. As Adrien, he could hardly even make eye contact with her without her showing visible discomfort. As Chat Noir, he could finally find out what makes her tick, and discover whatever secret she's hiding that's caused her to act so strangely. He grins as he makes up his mind. Tomorrow, I'll become her mentor.
A/N: In this story Adrien isn't evil, he's just a bit misguided. He's a semi-angsty cinnamon roll with a misaligned moral compass. A sin-namon roll, if you will. Hopefully he's not too OOC. Next update it's back to Marinette.