La Curiosité du Chat
Chapitre 1: La Coïncidence
Her parents surprised her with the announcement the week before school let out for the summer.
"Marinette!" Her mother called, "Can you come downstairs for a minute?"
Marinette looked up from her math homework and glanced at Tikki, who was sitting on her desk as she usually did while Marinette did homework. Tikki shrugged. "Don't ask me," she said. Putting the stylus down, Marinette pushed away from her desk and made her way down the stairs to the bakery.
"What is it, Maman?" she asked. At first, she assumed her parents needed help in the bakery, but when neither her mother nor father were in the kitchen, she hesitated. "What's going on?"
"Well," Sabine said, a smile creeping across her face, "I just got off the phone with my sister. She's planning on going to visit Nǎinai this summer, and she asked if we'd like to go with her!"
Marinette's eyes flicked back and forth between her parents. Her mother was beaming, and her father gazed at her mother with a sappy expression. He was obviously happy for her. While Sabine had been born in and grew up in France, Marinette's grandmother had moved back to China with her grandfather after both their children moved out. It had been many years since Sabine had been to see them – and last time, Marinette had been very young, so she had stayed in France with her father.
But this time …
"You mean, we're going to China?" Marinette asked, her eyes widening in shock. This was so much more exciting than being asked to help in the bakery! She'd never been to China, and she was curious about that part of her heritage. She'd been asking to go for years, but it was hard to get away when the bakery needed constant attention.
"I told her we would think about it, but right now it's looking entirely possible. We'll go after school gets out, of course, and we'll probably stay for about a week."
Marinette bounced on the balls of her feet. "Eeee! Yes! I'd love to go!" She closed the gap between herself and her parents and hugged them tightly. "I can't wait to tell Alya!" she exclaimed as soon as they broke apart. She bounced a little more, then ran back up to her room.
"Tikki!" she whisper-shouted as soon as her door was closed, "We're going to China!"
"What, really?" Her kwami asked in disbelief, "That's what your mom wanted to talk to you about?"
"Yeah!" Marinette threw herself into her chair and spun around happily. "I'm so excited! I've never been! Oh shoot," she said, stopping herself. "I need to call Alya!"
"Marinette," Tikki said, but the enthusiastic teenager was already dialing Alya's number. The kwami sighed as Alya picked up on the other end.
"Marinette!" Alya said, easily audible over the cell phone, "What's up?"
"Guess what!" Marinette told her friend.
"I have no idea. Wait, you finally asked Adrien out?"
Marinette laughed through the blush that rose to her cheeks. "N-no," she stammered. "I'm – I'm still working on that."
"Then what is it, girl?"
"I'm going to China for a week this summer!"
"No way! When did you find out?"
The two girls squealed together for a while, then fell into talking about everything under the sun, as teenage girls are prone to do. Of course, 'everything under the sun' included a suspiciously large amount about Adrien Agreste, but that was also to be expected. When Marinette finally got off the phone, she saw Tikki gazing at her with a concerned expression on her face.
"What?" she asked.
"Marinette, what about Ladybug?" Tikki asked. "If you're gonna be gone for a week, then Ladybug will be as well. What if something happens?"
Marinette bit her lip. In all her excitement, she had completely forgotten about her superhero alter-ego. "I can't tell Maman that I can't go," she said. "That would be so suspicious, and besides, I want to go. Chat can handle himself without me for a week, I'm sure." Sighing, she picked her stylus up again and turned back to her math homework. "I'll warn him about it tonight."
Honestly, she wasn't confident about his ability to handle himself on his own – the one solo mission he'd been on was with the Dessinateur, and even then he'd still had her to back him up, even if he didn't know it. It didn't matter; the fact was, even if he couldn't handle himself on his own, he would have to.
"Bonsoir, my lady."
Ladybug would recognize that drawl anywhere, and so when she turned away from the Paris skyline, she was unsurprised to see her outrageous flirt of a partner standing behind her. She rolled her eyes as she allowed him to kiss her hand, then yanked it out of his grasp.
"Good evening, Chat," she said with long-suffering sigh. "Nice of you to show up."
"Like a bad penny," Chat Noir assured her, his hands landing on his hips. "I wouldn't miss it for the world. And how is the beautiful Paris tonight?"
"Quiet," Ladybug said, "as usual. You know how it is."
Indeed, it wasn't often that their evening 'patrols' turned into anything more than a leisurely stroll across the rooftops. In the months they had been working together, the Akuma generally made their appearances during daylight hours. It made sense – after all, that was when people often experienced the things that would cause their emotions to go haywire, leaving them susceptible to Hawkmoth's dark butterflies. When they weren't in the middle of a mission, patrolling at night was nearly a pointless endeavor.
But it was such a superhero thing to do. When Marinette had first met Tikki on her fifteenth birthday the summer before and learned of her powers as Ladybug, she had spent hours in both the school and public libraries, reading all the superhero lore she could get her hands on. After all, even though sometimes it wasn't enough, Marinette Dupain-Cheng always tried her best.
It was a trait that had been passed on to Ladybug, although Ladybug's best was always enough. Marinette chocked it up to the enhanced luck that her superhero alter-ego possessed.
Ladybug blinked. She hadn't realized she'd been staring off into space, and her gaze fell back to the green of her partner's eyes. She smiled brightly. "Sorry," she said, "I just got lost in thought. Let's go!"
Chat Noir grinned that infuriating grin of his – the one she often wanted to simply wipe off his face. "Alright!"
The two took off into the night, dancing from rooftop to rooftop and eventually up the Eiffel Tower. They kept their eyes peeled for trouble, of course, but there was none on that lazy Sunday night. Sprawled out atop the highest platform of the Eiffel Tower, Ladybug felt as if she were on top of the world. Being Ladybug brought with it a load of responsibilities, but nights like this made it all worth it.
Out here, she could forget about Marinette's problems. She could forget about grades and school and Chloe and Adrien – although that was a little more difficult – and just hang out with someone she would call her second-best friend in the world, if only it wouldn't inflate his ego too much. It was already big enough.
Sure, there was Chat's crush on Ladybug to worry about, but she didn't do much worrying. Although his flirting could get out of control, he never pushed her, and he seemed perfectly happy to accept she didn't feel the same way.
"What is it, Beautiful?"
Ladybug sighed as she pushed herself to her feet and walked over to the edge of the platform. Leaning on the railing, she took a deep breath of the early summer evening air. "I'm going to be away for a week or so after school ends," she said. "My family is taking a trip, and I can't get out of it."
She felt more than saw Chat's presence beside her, and she jumped. Damn that black costume. "Don't worry," he said cockily. "I can take care of things just fine here, you know."
Ladybug chuckled. "I know," she said, despite her doubts.
Chat Noir was silent for several moments. Ladybug was about to ask what was wrong when he turned so that his back was leaning against the railing and he was somewhat facing her. "Can I ask where the lady is disappearing off to?" he said hesitantly.
She bit her lip and pondered for a minute or two before making her decision. She sighed. What could it hurt? She motioned for Chat to lean closer with a single finger. She knew she was being paranoid, but she couldn't risk Hawkmoth overhearing her somehow. "We're going to China," she whispered. "I have family there, but I've never been." It was more information than she'd ever given him before, but it was so vague she doubted he could guess her identity from it.
"Nice," Chat said, leaning back against the railing but still staying within her personal space. "Do you speak the language? Wǒ kěyǐ wěisuí dāng fānyì, rúguǒ nǐ yuànyì dehuà."
"You speak Chinese?" Ladybug asked, astounded. Chat nodded smugly, and she smiled, shaking her head. "I know a couple words, but I have no idea what you just said."
"I was just saying I could tag along as your translator," he said. "It could be fun! I can see it now – Ladybug and Chat Noir conquer Beijing! First France, then China, and next … the world!" His hand gestures were enthusiastic, and she stifled a laugh at his antics.
"Idiot," Ladybug said, smacking his shoulder. "I actually think I'm looking forward to a week without you. I'll actually get some peace and quiet for once."
Chat's gloved hands flew to his heart. "You wound me, my lady."
She rolled her eyes. "You'll get over it," she said. "Come on, time's almost up. We still have at least a week before I leave – probably two."
"That's just two more weeks for me to mourn your impending departure, but if you insist."
"I do insist. Now come on, you silly kitty. Unless you're planning on jumping down on your own, but you never seem to land on your –"
"Yeah, yeah, rub it in, will ya? I've just got bad luck. Fight me." He wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled his face into her shoulder, severely diminishing the effect of his words. Deciding not to call him out on it, she wrapped one arm around his waist and gripped him tightly.
"On three, alright? One, two, three!"
And they together they jumped over the edge. Ladybug grabbed him even tighter as she tossed her yoyo, and they swung safely down to the ground. They tumbled head over heels for several feet, and when he ended up on top of her, she pushed at his nose until he stood, that insufferable grin still plastered across his face.
"Until next time," she said.
"I miss you already!" he called out behind her as she sprinted away.
Waking up for school the next morning was a nightmare and a half, as it usually was after a night out on the town with Chat Noir. It was only Tikki's constant prodding that kept her from falling back asleep after her alarm went off. As it was, she got to school with only minutes to spare, sliding into her seat beside Alya just before the tardy bell rang.
She yawned loudly as she pulled out the material she needed for class, then cushioned her head in her arms atop the desk for a few moments before forcing herself upright once more. Alya looked at her curiously.
"Are you okay, Marinette?"
Marinette nodded, barely stifling another yawn. "I couldn't sleep last night," she said, and it wasn't entirely a lie. She so hated lying to her friend, even if it was necessary.
"Too excited?" Alya asked. "I don't blame you – you're going to China! Have you ever met your grandparents? Once, right?"
"Yeah," she said, "they came to visit when I was really little. I don't really remember them much."
She was looking at Alya, so she completely missed the sharp glance that Adrien shot back at her. When she looked back front, however, she flushed under his inquisitive gaze.
"You're going to China this summer?" he asked. "That's cool."
"I – uh – yeah, it is. I mean, you travel all the time, so it's probably not that impressive, but, uh … eheh. Yeah, I'm excited," she finished in a mumble.
She shifted anxiously under Adrien's gaze. There was something in his eyes that she couldn't identify, but she didn't have the time to work it out before class started. He shook his head as he turned forward, and she heard him mutter something – Zhè zhǐshì yīgè qiǎohé – under his breath. Groaning quietly, she buried her face in her arms once again.
Alya rubbed a comforting hand on her back. "You're getting better," she whispered. "Don't worry too much about it."
Yes, she was definitely looking forward to getting away. Perhaps a week in China would give her time to sort out her feelings for Adrien before they entered Lyceé next year. God, she hoped so.
Miraculously, she didn't fall asleep in class.
If you follow me on Tumblr, you'll know that this fandom just kinda hit me over the head and dragged me away. I had to write something, and I meant for it to be a oneshot, but we all know I don't do oneshots well ...