It was late one evening after a patrol, when the two were comparing notes and simply taking the time to feel comfortable in each other's presence (not that either would admit it), that Ladybug asked about his new fighting skills.
"It's just, I've noticed you using your staff more effectively, both as a full length quarterstaff and as short batons."
"Yeah. I started training in my civilian life. There's a French martial art they used to teach policemen a century ago. Savate. It came out of merging street fighting techniques from France's rougher towns with boxing and some other stuff. There's a branch of it that's specifically about fighting with walking sticks or umbrellas or other short canes."
"It sounds like fun". Ladybug's voice was wistful.
"It is. You want to try it?" His offer was impulsive, unthought. Why wouldn't he want to share his joys with her? But her indrawn breath reminded him why, so he quickly started gabbling. "Not with me, of course. Just... if you thought some extra training would help you too. Maybe more the hand to hand rather than the stick fighting. Some of it was used by sailors who were holding on to ropes or railings with one hand, you might find that really useful, being able to attack while swinging on your yoyo or something". Deep breath, Chat, now stop talking before you sound like an idiot in front of her. He risked a glance at her face, and saw she was lost in thought.
"Actually... that might be a good idea", she said finally. "My kwami has been talking to me about the need to work on improving my skills. In case the akumas get worse faster than we get better. There's a problem I can see though."
"Whether to do it in the suit? My kwami said it'd be better if I learnt without the suit, so that my body memory knew the techniques even if I hadn't had a chance to transform yet."
"Well, yes, but... well, how many women and girls are doing it?"
Chat Noir realised what she meant. There weren't many. Plagg had been right, young guys turned up semi-regularly. Many didn't last past the first five weeks, but that constant coming and going of new students had hid him well. Females, however – not so many. And the male students did notice them, even if they pretended they didn't. There were no hassles for the women and girls, Chat's training centre was pretty good about that and Ladybug's civilian self would be more than welcome there. But she would stand out. And Chat would certainly recognise her. He was sure he couldn't not. His shoulders slumped. And then straightened as he thought of something.
"You're right, there's not many and you'd be more likely to be noticed amongst them", he said. "Buuuut", he grinned, "there's la savate forme".
He couldn't keep the grin from his voice. "It's a cardio class. Women in gyms do it. For fitness."
The disgust in her voice was nearly palpable. "What, do you think I couldn't do the real fighting? I can beat your tail any day, kitty."
"No, no!" he laughed, holding up his hands in mock surrender. "Keep your spots on! They use several of the savate moves, so you'd get to practice with them. And you wouldn't stand out at all. I could show you what I know of how the moves are supposed to work in combat so you could practice that part of it yourself."
"You're that good?"
"You know it", he winked at her.
"I think I'd rather a regular teacher".
"Meowch! This cat is wounded!" She laughed at his faux-melodrama, and he relaxed. The world was so much better when she laughed. "Seriously though, I know a guy. I'm sure if we asked him, he'd be willing to show you the details in-suit. He's the one who offered to train me in the first place after one of our battles".
Ladybug smiled, a thoughtful smile. "This sounds like it could work, kitty. I have no idea how I'd fit it in around homework, but my parents would probably approve."
A few days later, a young man in a tight t-shirt and black shorts was taking a short break between classes in an alley behind his training centre, when a baton descended from the rooftops. A black leather-clad cat slid down it.
"Chat Noir! After you didn't show, I thought you wouldn't come back", the young man said.
"Well, uh, I thought a lot about what you said but, uh, in the end, uh... actually, it's not me who wants to train with you."
The swoosh of a yoyo echoed slightly from the tin wall of one building, and Ladybug was hanging just above them. "I hear you might be able to give me a few suggestions", she said. "But you don't have many women training here and I don't want to be swamped with fans." She spun around her yoyo string one-handed and dropped, landing lightly in front of him. "Maybe we could come up with some kind of plan?"
His face lit up. "Sure, did you have something in mind?"
Two things happened later that week. First, the Ladyblog announced that it had heard that Ladybug was a big fan of savate de forme, the kickboxing-style cardio class. Second, large numbers of Ladybug fans dug out their gym gear and found local classes to join, in the hopes that perhaps maybe they would be doing the class with their hero in disguise.
The fitness instructors would have been far more surprised by the sudden popularity had they not been warned in advance by Chat Noir and some teachers from a local savate de rue school. Alya went along to a few classes, and after one or two she managed to drag Marinette away from her sketchbooks to come too. In the grand rush of young women joining up, most notably and loudly Chloe, nobody paid any particular attention to a petite French-Chinese girl in pigtails who shyly admitted to being a Ladybug fan. By the time the fad had petered away, she'd been there enough times that nobody noticed her any more either, and none of her classmates thought anything of the fact that she went to a cardio class twice a week. And if students at a certain savate de rue school occasionally wondered why their teachers closed the window shades to the second training room for a "private tutoring session" every other week or so when nobody seemed to have come in the front door, they kept it to themselves.
A/N: Whoops, posted this in a hurry because I'm having trouble connecting to the servers, and left off the AN! I love reviews and feedback, and this is a bit of an odd story for me because usually I write about stuff that I know a lot better. So I'd love to hear what you think! Chat's comment about sailors is relevant - one of the fighting styles that savate originally came from really was from French sailors who fought on ships, and who might often need to fight one handed because the other was holding onto something like a rope or a railing for balance. Hope you enjoyed it! I've debated adding a third chapter to this one, either with the two of them fighting/ training together or a chapter from Gabriel's POV. Let me know if you think either would be a good idea!