It was as Chat Noir fled after an akuma battle, looking for a place to transform, that he saw the guy in the alley. Taller and solider than Chat, wearing black shorts and a tight shirt, trying to wave Chat down. Normally he would have waved and kept going, knowing he had two beeps left. But what caught his attention were the two sticks on the guy's back. He landed on the roof just over the alley and ran along it to lose some momentum.
"Chat Noir! I want to talk to you about your cannes!" The guy seemed serious. And, non-threatening despite his size and that he was carrying actual weapons. Chat thought about it for a fraction of a second. The guy was still a full floor below him, so Chat was well out of reach.
He hunkered down. "I can stop for about thirty seconds". That would give him enough time to get another alley or two over afterwards.
"It's OK". The guy gestured towards a large skip bin. "If you're behind that, I won't see you. I'll just go back in the club door." Sure enough, there was a blue door behind him. "But anyway. I just wanted to say – we've watched some of your footage. No offense, but you look like you could use some suggestions on how to use that staff of yours. Especially when you're using it in two pieces. We'd love to teach one of Paris' champions if it helps. No charge." He grinned. "That's thirty seconds. Come back and find us if you're interested." And true to his word, he started back to the door. He was just opening it when Chat called out.
"Tomorrow, same time. I'll think about it and tell you then." The guy waved, and closed the door behind him. Chat raced to another alley and found an out-of-sight spot, just as the transformation dropped.
Adrien had the cheese out of his pocket almost before Plagg could start talking.
"What was that abou... ooh, cheese!"
Adrien had a full minute to get his breath back while Plagg ate, before he continued.
"You're not seriously thinking about it, are you?"
"Well, sort of." Adrien sighed. "Fencing's good, but it's a bit formal compared to some of the fights we're in. Most of them."
"And by most you mean just about all". Plagg shrugged. "Can't argue with you there".
"It seems like if I'm going to be carrying a staff I might as well learn to use it better."
"So you're going to just accept help from some guy in an alley?"
"Of course not. I'm going to go to the front door."
What Adrien actually meant was, he was going to go around to the street the club was on and look for the sign to see what they taught. It took a bit of walking back and forth while trying not to look conspicuous, but in the three foot space between a florist and an accountant he finally spotted the door that (presumably) led to a training space behind the shops. The sign on the door said "Savate de Rue and Combat de Canne". Adrien went home, and looked up some videos on Youtube.
Spinning around in his chair, he stretched his arms up high and then folded them behind his head. "What do you think, Plagg?"
"Well, one fighting stick's a lot like another. Canne de Combat is more gentlemanly where something like..." he scrolled back through Adrien's video history... "this one, Kali Sikaram, is more direct, but a stick is still a stick. As long as you don't get all caught up in the idea that you have to follow any polite rules when you're fighting an akuma, any extra training would help you. A lot."
"Am I that bad?"
"Kid, you're creative. And you've got good instincts. But I've had Chat Noirs who were much much better fighters than you." Plagg looked lost in thought. "Many of them had to be".
Adrien sobered. And as Plagg had guessed, his competitive nature rose to the challenge. "Well, this looks like it would be fun. And it's French. I can't believe this is what they used to teach policemen a hundred years ago." He paused. "Just one thing, Plagg. Should I be learning it in the suit or out of it?"
Plagg started to answer, then realised what his kitten was saying. The suit enhanced his abilities and protected him from injury. Most fighters wore some kind of protective gear while training and learning, but the suit might be too much. Adrien wouldn't end up learning the body memory of how to avoid major injury. Nor how to fight effectively if for any reason he was caught out of the suit and without the enhanced abilities. But without the suit...
"Yeah", Adrien said, catching Plagg's expression. "I'll usually be fighting in the suit anyway. And if I train as Adrien, I have to find a way to do that officially without extra publicity. Or anyone connecting the dots between their offer to Chat Noir and my signing up."
"Actually", Plagg said, "that might not be a problem. Most martial arts studios have people signing up and dropping out all the time. To them you'd be just another fifteen year old kid who watched one too many movies. They wouldn't think of you as anything other than Adrien Agreste".
"Which is its own problem, but at least if I was training as Adrien, Nathalie would have it in my schedule and I wouldn't have to sneak out to get there. On the other hand, I can sneak out most evenings as Chat Noir, and they'd probably be OK with training me whenever I could get there."
They thought for a minute, then both started to speak at the same time.
"Maybe I should ask..."
"Maybe you should ask..."
Surprisingly, Gabriel Agreste was willing to entertain the idea when Adrien raised it with him the next morning. "Canne de Combat in its current form was certainly intended to be suitable for men of high social status. I see no reason why you should not explore its possibilities." Adrien was caught off guard by the ready acquiescence. But it made more sense when he saw his father leaving for meetings with his ever-present walking stick in hand. His father even looked back at him, momentarily, with a small smile and a hint of a gesture that would almost have been a salute with the stick, had its tip left the ground. Adrien grinned, and went to speak with Nathalie about the new addition to his schedule.
Chat Noir didn't return to the alley. He didn't want to give away any other clues that might link his superhero persona with the rich young man who had been signed up that morning by his father's personal assistant, and who was dropped off to his first class that afternoon by a bodyguard driving a limousine. The teacher for the class was a young man, taller and thicker than Adrien, wearing black shorts and a tight t-shirt. He came in from the back alley shortly before class started, looking a little disappointed. But when he flicked his cane up into his hand and began, there was nothing but the sport in his mind. Adrien watched.
A/N: A tireur is a man who practices savate. Savate's a hybrid of several different fighting arts, originating in France, and currently includes the official forms of Canne de Combat (originally a different fighting art). Like all hybrids it's going to vary a little in how different people and clubs practice it, especially as a lot of the original teachers died in the two World Wars so it's been reinvented more than once. I don't practice it myself (nor am I in France) so I apologise if bits of this story seem not quite realistic to anyone who actually trains in the savate culture, and claim "variation of style" as my excuse :-) This story was inspired by my really awesome brother, who trains in Kali Sikaram. I was going to base the story on Chat learning that, and the dojo where my brother and son train, but when I looked into it I became fairly sure that Adrien would train in Canne de Combat instead (and that Gabriel probably already has).
Next and final chapter: the Tireuse, as Ladybug gets in on the action. Should be up in the next day or two as long as I have internet access.