Thank you so much for remaining so patient and giving me such awesome, loving reviews, fam :') As always, I hope you enjoy this chapter! I know you're all getting anxious for the good parts, but they're coming, I promise :)

Chapter 17

Marinette almost didn't believe it. He was going to tell her his supervillain origin story? She had no idea what he went through in order to become a villain, so she was a bit excited and anxious to hear it.

Chat placed her tray and glass on the floor outside her room before he came back in and took his previous place at her bedside. His face held no emotions she could pick up on, his expression was as blank as a sheet of paper. She wondered how that would change throughout the story.

He held up a single finger. Her eyes bore into his own in rapt attention.

"It's called 'The Hungry Kwami'," he spoke in a serious tone that betrayed no hints of what he was feeling.

Marinette frowned, not expecting the weird title of this story. And what was a kwami? And why was it hungry?

"Once there was a hungry kwami," he continued, just as solemnly as before. "It was so hungry that it ate the world's supply of cheese and everyone died." It was only then that he flashed her a smile. "The end."

. . . What just happened?

While Marinette was trying to make sense of what he just told her, Chat grinned and stood up again. She remained silent as he walked to the door, and still didn't talk when he opened the door and walked out into the hallway.

However, after he bent down to pick up the tray, her indignant screech rang out throughout the entire mansion. The sudden ear-piercing noise made him flinch and his ears to ring, due to his enhanced hearing from the miraculous.

But even with the pain, her words made it all worth it.

"Are you kidding me?! You stupid cat, get back here!"

Chat laughed, good and loud as he shut the door, chuckling as he made his way down to the kitchen and ignoring her aggravated shrieks.

She'll get over it.

After Marinette had properly stewed and seethed over Chat Noir's bullshit story, she took to drawing in one of the many sketchbooks he had given her to calm down. Once the annoyance and frustration had melted away, it paved the way for disappointment and hurt.

She knew that when it came down to it, he was a supervillain and she was just a pawn in order to maintain peace in Paris.

So then why was she hurt that he didn't trust her enough to tell his story? Given the more recent events of him taking care of her while she was sick, she figured he'd at least trust her a little bit more. Her own faith in him had gradually grown since she came here; didn't his?

Apparently not.

She huffed, picking up her sketchbook and pencil again with resolute force and started the basic lines to the skirt of a ball gown.

If he didn't trust her, why should she care? If he didn't want to tell her his story, that was fine. It's not like she liked him enough to not want any secrets between them. They had a strictly professional kind-of captor/kind-of captive relationship. If he didn't want to tell her something, then that was fine by her. She didn't care, because she didn't like him.

She didn't like his smiles, or how he cooked for her, or took care of her when she was sick, or made her laugh.

Her pencil paused on the paper.

Okay, maybe she did like those things.

But she definitely didn't like how he was a villain and wanted her in exchange for peace. She would never be okay with that.

Although…it did seem like he was changing for the better…and if he was a hero again then there would be nothing stopping her from liking him.

But he wasn't a hero, he was a villain.

But a nice one, a traitorous part of her mind whispered enticingly. Even with his flaws, you still like him.

Marinette sighed.

Okay, so she may like him. But as a possible friend only! Nothing beyond that! And she wouldn't become full-on friends with him until after he let her go with the promise he'll leave everyone alone, and/or he'll change his way.

And yet you still want him, if that wet dream you had of him was any indication.

A tortured moan slipped past her lips. She set the sketchbook and pencil aside once again to bring her knees to her chest and rest her chin atop them.

Okay, she had to admit that she did kind of want him like that. But those were only hormones, and he was obviously an attractive guy. Anyone would want him! It was purely a physical feeling for him, nothing else.

Only physical? Then why are you so hung-up on his kindness? Face it: you want him, despite his villain status. That can be fixed later. For now, you can't stop thinking about what he can do to you, and not just in your dreams…

Marinette buried her face in her knees and groaned loudly in frustration and acceptance.

Fuck her life.

The next day, Chat deemed Marinette healthy enough to get out of bed and try to continue on with her life as normally as before she had gotten sick. She didn't have a fever since the spike yesterday, so hopefully this mean that she was in the clear. However, he did caution her to take it easy, just in case. She had rolled her eyes in turn yet promised him she would fulfill his request.

Her feelings regarding him were still a jumbled mess, yet there were two things that were clear to her.

She liked him in the friendly sense, and in the carnal sense.

His villainy, well, he was showing signs of changing for the greater good. Maybe if he let her go and abandoned his current path, they could…

She shook her head as she made her way down the stairs. She didn't want to think about this now, and suffer another headache. As Alya often advised her back home, she needed to go with the flow. Take things slow and easy, and see how they turn out. Don't overthink things.

So that's what she did.

She didn't overthink as Chat set down a plate of waffles in front of her with that smile that made his eyes shine with warmth.

She didn't overthink as he sat across from her and inquired after her health, making sure she felt better. And especially not when he admitted that he was worried for her with a tinge of pink lighting up the exposed skin beneath his mask.

She didn't overthink when she grabbed the bottle of syrup on the table, proceeding to pour nearly half of it onto her waffles, as he shook his head with that 'what am I going to do with this girl' grin on his face. Or when her mouth was filled with so much of her breakfast that some syrup escaped past the pucker of her lips and he smiled amusedly as he handed her a napkin.

And she absolutely did not overthink it when after their breakfast he took her hand and gave the knuckles a kiss, claiming that he was glad to have a dining companion again.

Nope. Not at all.

But that didn't stop her from racing upstairs to her room as soon as he left the kitchen and bursting into her bathroom, trying in vain to get rid of her blush with cold water.

Later that evening, after a particularly uneventful day of more stitching on a shirt she had recently designed and started deciding on the colors and the cloth materials for, she ventured out of her sewing room and downstairs of the mansion.

Marinette let her mind wander with possibilities as she walked on, with no set destination in mind.

She could go swimming, or maybe fix herself a snack in the kitchen. Or she could-

The sound of pool balls smacking against each other tore her out of her reverie.

Or she could go to the recreational room, where it had a pool table, a ping pong table, and a foosball table. Now, she couldn't be exactly sure, but she was fairly confident that the sound of pool balls being scattered around meant that Chat was playing a game of billiards.

She walked to the very door leading to it, her hand poised to the doorknob, when she hesitated. Given her recent rollercoaster of feelings, it probably wasn't wise to be around him right then.

Then again, sometimes she was one to play with fire.

With that thought, she turned the knob and opened the door, her presence halting Chat from his next shot. He straightened from his lowered position toward the table, gifting her with a grin once it registered that she just walked in.

"Hey, Princess," he said, using the extra time from his next shot to pick up a cube of blue chalk from the side of the pool table. Without taking his eyes off her, he rubbed the chalk against the tip of his pool cue. "It's pretty late, isn't it?"

She shrugged.

"10:30 isn't exactly that late, in my book."

He set the chalk down, his green eyes taking on an interested light.

"Ah, so you're a night owl, then?"

She shrugged again.

"I guess."

Wow, she was an expert at keeping a conversation, huh? She tried not to let her bitterness of her own social shortcomings show on her face. She should've had more to say, since she was the one who came in here in the first place.

If Chat Noir minded her lack of conversation expertise, he didn't show it.

Instead, he smirked with a playful gleam in his eyes.

"Well, since we're both night owls with seemingly nothing else to do, how about a game of pool?"

Something inside of her leaped at his offer. However, the rational part of her brain stopped her in time from accepting.

"I can't," she spoke, quietly and embarrassed. "I don't know how to play pool."

It wasn't like she went to pool halls or bars back in Paris, nor did her parents have a pool table lying around the house. So it wasn't her fault that she had no idea how to play.

"Then it looks like this is your lucky day, Princess," he professed, squaring his shoulders and banging the pool cue in his hand on the floor. He used his free hand to place it over his heart. "For I'm purrfectly willing to teach you how to play."

She crossed her arms in front of her chest and humorously scoffed.

"You want to teach me how to play pool?" she inquired with an arched eyebrow. "Doesn't it take a while to learn?"

"Not when you have the right teacher," he purred lowly, momentarily causing her to falter in her earlier unwavering, amused expression. She bit her bottom lip, praying that she wasn't blushing like she thought she was, and did her best to school her features to look unaffected by his flirtatious remark.

But if flirting was his game, then she'd play it. Maybe if she forced herself to not respond to it, she could prove that her physical longing for him was just a passing phase and nothing more. Then her internal struggle would be over!

"Alright," she decided, a confident grin curling her lips. "Show me what you got, teacher."

"Pawsome," he replied with a grin as confident as hers had been, only this one had a bit more of a devious edge to it. He walked to the wall that held other pool cues, staring at them for a few seconds until he finally decided on the one to give her.

Before handing it to her, he made sure to chalk the tip.

Marinette held the cue in both of her hands, marveling at how it was light, but not too light, and just the right amount of heavy to inflict some damage on the white cue ball. While she was inspecting it in curiously, Chat took to gathering the pool balls together and racked them up so they were in a neat, perfect triangle near the lower end of the table.

After that, he walked to the other side and positioned himself in line with the cue ball.

"I'll break," he announced, drawing her attention back to him and off the pool stick in her hands. His eyes were on the ball in front of him, rather than her, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration. "Just so we can get these scattered. Then I'll show you how to sink one."

She watched as he drew the pool cue back several times, trying to make sure his shot was as perfect as could be, when he suddenly snapped it forward, the tip of the stick making a dull thud against the cue ball before it surged forward. It smacked loudly against the other balls, and Marinette was a bit dismayed when she saw three balls all go into separate holes.

It certainly seemed like he knew what he was talking about. How was she ever going to get as good as him?

He strode toward her then, a smug grin dancing on his lips as he did so.

Cocky bastard.

"You know," he spoke airily, taking the time to lean his pool cue against the side of the table. "It's rightfully my turn since I sunk a ball. However," he paused to wink, unknowingly making her stomach flutter. "I'll make an exception for you. You know, since it's your first lesson and all."

She stamped down on the sudden attraction as best she could manage. Her lips thinned into a tight line as she eyed him with an unimpressed look.

"In that case, I'm thankful for your generosity."

He chuckled, showing that he easily caught on to her sarcasm.

"Anytime, Princess. Now first, you have to learn the right grip. Most beginners grip the cue too tightly; your hold should be relaxed, but not so that the cue will slip through your fingers when you take your shot."

"I think I can handle holding the stick," she sarcastically retorted with obvious signs of teasing, her lips quirking up as she confidently made her way to the side of the pool table, where the cue ball was resting perfectly in line with a ball that could be easily hit into the side pocket.

Noticing that she was trying to line up a striped ball, Chat quietly snorted in amusement.

"I guess I'm solids," he deduced with a half-grin of acceptance, casually walking to her right side to see how she was doing.

He had to press his lips together to rein in the snickers that so desperately wished to burst forth.

The end of her cue of tilting towards the sky. Her shoulders were hunched up and her knees looked locked. Her tongue was poking out of her mouth in stubborn concentration, trying to copy the way he balanced the front of the cue on the juncture between his thumb and index finger in order to line up the shot. However, every time she brought the stick back before she went to hit the cue ball, the tip of the stick slid off her fingers and she had to start over again.

He could tell she was getting increasingly frustrated, given her eventual angry grunts.

"Looks like you need a more hands-on demonstration," he decided after he had sufficiently lost his initial humor with her attempts to correctly move the cue forward.

Marinette was about to shoot back that she was perfectly fine and able to hit a stupid ball with a stupid stick, until he pressed up against her left side and the words promptly died on her tongue.

She inaudibly swallowed, doing her best to keep her breathing even in this test of temptation. If she could survive this without becoming a blushing mess of goo, then she could survive whatever Chat Noir chose to dish out at her.

"First off, you're holding it wrong," he informed her gently, in a low murmur with his mouth poised to her ear, the action causing her breathing to stop altogether and her mouth to part in anticipation.

Okay, so maybe she wouldn't get a perfect 20 on this test. Perhaps at least a 15 would do? Damn, why was she even getting so affected like this? He was hardly even doing anything sinful yet her heart was starting to accelerate its beat all the same!

He reached an arm behind her to lower the cue so that it was level to her hip, all the while supposedly oblivious to how he was causing her breath to hitch.

"You have to relax your stance, as well. You're too tense; you need to loosen up."

Was he serious? How could she relax when he was literally pressing his body against her?! Didn't he feel anything at all during this? How could he remain so calm and collected while she was fully concentrating on not reacting out of the ordinary during this personal lesson, rather than the lesson itself?

She released a sigh as she nodded in response to the instruction and followed through, bending her knees a bit more and relaxing her previously strong stance, afterward lowering her shoulders as well.

Damn, Marinette, get a grip on yourself. What's the matter with you?

His finely, leather-covered muscles were currently up against her body; that was the matter!

"It looks like your bridge-er, how you're using your left hand for the shot-isn't working either. Here, maybe this would be better for you."

His warm, gloved hand found her bare left one, his fingers deftly shaping the way she was to hold the cue stick to his suggestion. She watched in wonder and attention as she was left with her hand somewhat resembling a slackened fist lying on the table, with her index finger looping around the tip of the cue so it could be guided by the space between her forefinger and middle one.

This time, he draped his body over hers completely, so that he was assisting her with getting ready to strike the ball in front of her.

Was it her imagination, or did she imagine his even breathing momentarily falter?

He cleared his throat before speaking again, though it didn't do much good, since his voice still sounded slightly husky.

"Don't rush the shot, either. Test to see if everything's right first. Make sure your balance is perfect, make sure you're lined up with the cue ball correctly. If something's off, there's nothing wrong with starting over."

Slowly, his hand brought the end of the cue stick back, Marinette instinctively following his lead. Together, they drew the stick forward and back several times, until she deemed herself ready with a resolute nod.

Together, they struck the cue ball hard.

The striped ball was a blur as it descended inside the pocket it was aimed at.

Marinette smiled widely, victoriously, as her heart did a somersault and the adrenaline surged at the accomplishment. With a happy gasp, she spun her head back to thank Chat.

She sobered once she observed how he hardly reacted. Instead, he was intently staring into her eyes, and it didn't look like he was going to stop any time soon.

Not that she minded, her mind was quick to determine.

His face was only a few centimeters away, her eyes level to his lips. She peered up at him beneath her lashes, idly wondering what exactly this moment meant, and noticed the green in his irises seemed to be a shade darker than normal.

Those same eyes flickered once to her lips before settling back on her eyes, eliciting a pleasing shiver to wrack her body. Her breathing came in soft, even pants, matching his own, that has already brushed over the top of her lip numerous times since they started this little not-so staring contest.

He blinked once, slowly down at her, the eyes adopting a lidded look once done. She found herself copying his expression, but unlike him, she eased her head ever so closer to his.

She had no idea what she was doing, she was just being guided on whatever her insides were screaming for at this point.

A pregnant pause later, and he too started to close the distance between them. His mouth was parted, his eyes aimed for his destination, her heart hammering and nerves buzzing, when he stopped just a hair's width away from sealing the deal.

She waited, not daring to move, to initiate the point of no return. Her eyes had slid partly shut, while Chat squeezed his own eyes shut tightly as if in pain.

In a flash he was away from her, shaking his head as he retreated back. Marinette was left reeling, still somewhat caught in his mesmerizing spell as she tried to snap out of it.

What she was left with, was confusion, disbelief, shock…and pain.

"I-I think that's the end of the lesson," he said, in a voice devoid of any emotion save for discomfort.

Marinette frowned. She could take a hint.

"Y-Yeah, okay. Good night."

As she left the room, the door clicking shut behind her, she paused before walking back to her room.

Was she just rejected?

If you didn't pick up on it, 'The Hungry Kwami' is a reference to 'The Ugly Barnacle' in Spongebob xD