A LAZY SATURDAY AFTERNOON...
Chat Noir sat perched atop the Palais de Chaillot, looking out over the Jardins du Trocadéro. To anyone else, the view from such a lofty vantage point would be breathtaking.
Chat Noir didn't acknowlege it in the slightest. His mind was filled with, in his opinion, a far more breathtaking view.
He thought back to the terrifying day, not long ago, when Hawk Moth had sent Jackady after his father. Many unusual things had happened that day, but once the danger had passed, his mind kept returning to one thing in particular:
The moment he met Ladybug face to face for the first time not as Chat Noir, but as Adrien Agreste.
For some reason, everything had felt different that day. At least, when he approached her, spoke to her, as Adrien. When he was Chat Noir, it was business as usual, with the added urgency of knowing his own father's life and dignity were at stake. But when Adrien, not Chat Noir, had come face to face with Ladybug...
Suddenly, she wasn't his partner, friend, and crush. Suddenly, she wasn't the cute heroine he loved to tease and flirt with, enjoying her mildly annoyed reactions to his quips and advances.
Suddenly, she was a goddess in red. A vision of loveliness to rival all the greatest sights of Paris. And Adrien found himself blushing his way through even speaking to her.
He was broken out of his reverie when his vision was suddenly obscured. He tensed up, reaching for his baton, when he heard a teasing voice from behind him. "Bonjour, Chaton!"
Chat Noir reached up and felt hands pressed over his eyes. He gently pulled them away and turned, finding Ladybug leaning over his shoulder, a bright smile on her face. "Ladybug," he said. "Don't you know better than to sneak up on a cat?"
Ladybug sat down next to him, dangling her legs off the edge. "I didn't expect to run into you today," she said. "When I saw you from down there, I thought there must be a villain to fight, but everything's peaceful."
Chat Noir sighed and relaxed. "I just came up here to think," he said. "I know I shouldn't transform for something like that, but I just needed to have some space to really clear my head." He blinked. "Wait, how did you see me? From where?"
Ladybug waved a vague hand at the plaza below. "I was down there," she said. "Just enjoying the weather. I happened to notice you out of the corner of my eye, so I found a place to transform just in case."
"I see," Chat Noir said. "I'm sorry I made you worry for nothing, then. I didn't mean to ruin your day."
Ladybug rolled her eyes. "My day isn't ruined, you silly alley cat," she said. "Honestly, I was getting bored just sitting around by myself down there. Running into a friend I didn't expect to see today...that's a nice way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon." She smiled at him, and he felt his heart flutter. "So, what did you come up here to think about?"
"Oh, you know...stuff."
"Ah. Stuff." Ladybug nodded sagely, folding her arms. "That's the most important thing in the world to think about, you know."
"Actually, I was thinking about you," Chat Noir blurted before he could stop himself.
Ladybug turned to him, an amused smirk on her face. "And here we go," she said in a mock resigned tone.
Chat Noir frowned. "I'm serious," he said. "I was just...thinking about you."
"Oh, well...alright." Ladybug coughed. "I, umm...what about me?"
Chat Noir shrugged. "Just that I know so little about you, even though I—" He looked at her. "I know...I know we're supposed to keep our identities secret, but...I can't help but wonder who you are sometimes. Are you somebody I know, or a stranger I've never met?" He leaned back. "I wonder what kind of friends you have, what you do when you're not Ladybug..." He sighed. "Whether or not you have a boyfriend, or are in love with someone."
Ladybug studied him for a long time. "W-well," she said. "I, uhh...I won't tell you who I really am, but..." She leaned back, mimicking his posture, and looked up at the sky. "I can tell you that outside of this costume, I'm just a normal girl. I go to school, I have friends—good friends!—and, well..." She toyed with her hair. "I don't have a boyfriend, but there...there is somebody I like."
Chat Noir turned to look at her. "Does he like you?"
Ladybug sighed. "I haven't worked up the nerve to tell him I like him," she said miserably. "I've tried so many times, but I always manage to mess it up somehow." She laughed softly. "I bet you can't picture me tripping over my own tongue or doing something lame like forgetting to sign a Valentine."
"It's hard to picture, yeah," Chat Noir agreed. "Even though you klutz up sometimes when we're fighting, you...you're usually so confident, so sure of yourself, so in control. You just always seem to know what to do..."
Ladybug laughed. "I wish I had as much confidence in my everyday life as I do when I'm fighting supervillains."
Chat Noir chuckled. "I can relate." He turned to look at her. "I..." He ducked his head, wringing his hands in his lap. "I'm in love with you."
"So I hear, every time we meet," Ladybug said with a roll of her eyes. "'My Lady', 'Buginette', and on and on you go—"
"I'm serious," Chat Noir said, his voice rough. He looked up at her, meeting her eyes. "I'm not flirting or teasing or joking right now. I..." He took a shaky breath. "I really am in love with you. I have been for a while now, but lately I realize just...just how badly I've fallen for you."
Ladybug blinked in surprise, her mouth forming a small 'o'. "Chat Noir..." She shook her head. "I...I don't know what to say..."
Chat Noir reached out and gently took her chin, turning her head to face him. "You don't have to say anything," he said. He sighed. "I guess since there's already somebody you like, and since we don't even know each other's real names, I don't really have a chance, but...I had to say it." He dropped his hand and bowed his head.
They lapsed into a long, awkward silence. After what felt like an eternity, Ladybug asked, "What brought this on all of a sudden? You're never this serious."
Chat Noir shrugged. "Something happened...not too long ago." He smiled wistfully. "Have you ever felt like your heart was sitting in the pit of your stomach and trying to crawl out of your throat at the same time?"
"I...y-yeah," Ladybug said. "Pretty much every time I see him." She winced. "Oh, I'm sorry, I—"
"It's cool." Chat Noir sighed. "I won't tell you when it happened or who we were fighting, because we've agreed not to reveal our identities, but..." He played with his faux tail in his lap. "Not too long ago, I actually ran into you when I wasn't Chat Noir."
"R-really?" Ladybug asked.
Chat Noir nodded. "Oh, there was the usual crisis going on, I was running around, looking for a place to...you know." Ladybug nodded. "And then there you were, right in front of me, and suddenly I just...I locked up. I didn't know what to..." He swallowed. "I felt like I was coming unglued. If it hadn't been for the situation we were in, I probably would've wound up a stuttering mess."
"I can't picture that, somehow," Ladybug said.
"Hey, Ladybug? Have you ever...y'know...run into me when you weren't Ladybug?"
Ladybug nodded. "Yeah. Once or maybe twice." She giggled. "Wow, that's so weird," she said.
Chat Noir laughed. "Yeah."
Ladybug coughed, swinging her legs idly. "So, uhh...how about you? What does Chat Noir do when he isn't Chat Noir?"
"Oh, well." Chat Noir shrugged. "Same as you, I guess. I go to school, hang out with my friends when I can. I, uhh...I don't have a lot of free time, really. I have a lot of extra lessons, stuff my dad wants me to do. I mean, I don't mind it, a lot of it's kind of interesting, but I just hate that I'm expected to do all these things, that he never acknowledges any of it. Oh, and then there's my part-time job. Again, for my dad. It takes up a lot of my time."
"Ouch," Marinette said. "That...actually sounds a little like this boy, the one I like. He's...well, I don't want to say too much." She ran a hand through her hair. "I guess I'm pretty lucky," she said. "I mean, I've gotten into some trouble at home lately over unexplained absences from school caused by, you know, superhero work, but my parents are very nice, loving, and supportive. Sometimes I take that for granted."
Chat Noir laughed. "We really need a 'saving the world' hall pass," he said.
"Yeah," Ladybug agreed. "Getting grounded sucks! A friend of mine got to be on TV and I couldn't be there with him because I was grounded."
"Huh, that's weird," Chat Noir said. "A friend of mine got to be on TV recently, and he invited this other friend of ours to come down to the studio, but she was groun...ded..." His eyes widened. He reached out and took hold of Ladybug's chin, turning her to face him again, staring into her suddenly shocked eyes. His jaw dropped. "Marinette?!"
"A-Adrien?" Ladybug squeaked out.
Chat Noir let go of her chin, his eyes locked on hers. His cheeks heated up. "Oh boy," he said. "This...this is awkward."
"Y-yeah," Ladybug agreed, ducking her head and playing with the ribbons in her hair.
Chat Noir blinked. "Wait," he said slowly. "So the guy you're in love with is..."
"You," Ladybug half-whispered, half-choked. She cleared her throat. "Y-yeah. I..."
Chat Noir chuckled. "Well. That..." He turned her to face him again, smiling. "That makes it easier for both of us, doesn't it?" He stood up, offering her his hand. "Wanna get down from here, change back to normal, go somewhere and grab a bite to eat? And...talk?"
Ladybug blushed, taking his hand. "Y-yes," she said. "I...I'd like that."
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