A/N: One of the things I love about languages is how sound words – onomatopoeics – get represented by different cultures. I highly recommend the work of James Chapman, who did the book (and online cartoons) Soundimals – they directly inspired this fic. Yes, as an English-only writer, this means that I've made some very, very terrible puns by bootstrapping French animal sounds into English words. Sorry not sorry.
Chat Noir watched the light in the bakery's back room come on, and his tail flicked up to attention. He smoothed it back down again. He wasn't often out this late, or rather early, but last night... well, his father had been worse than usual. There'd been no akuma attack that day, so Adrien hadn't been as physically tired as usual. And at midnight he was still wide awake, thinking about everything, talking to Plagg about it, when finally Plagg had suggested he go for a run on the rooftops. And Adrien, or rather Chat Noir, had. So here it was, quarter to four in the morning, and like most boulangeries around the city the Tom and Sabine Boulangerie was flickering to life.
Adrien liked this part of the night. It was restful. Most people slept. Those that worked, they held the night watch to themselves. It was like watching normal through a window, knowing that it carried on without knowing anything about you, but that you were part of what made the wheels turn, the doors open, the steam vent. He smiled, watching a faint flicker of hot air over one of the bakery's chimneys. Marinette's dad was in there, working at the back of the shop near the ovens – Chat's enhanced night-vision had no trouble seeing him in the low light despite the black-tinted windows. Chat stretched, and wondered if he could convince the baker to give him a fresh-baked roll. No sooner thought, then the black cat was at the door, knocking politely.
Tom was surprised by the knock, but the streetlights outside gave enough light to show a recognisable silhouette. He brushed the flour off his hands and opened the door. "Chat Noir!" he said cheerfully. "How can I help?"
"I was wondering if anything was out of the oven yet?" Chat's voice was polite, but hopeful. Tom looked – really looked – at the hero. Nobody knew who the black cat was, and nobody could quite remember what he looked like once he'd gone, but standing here in front of him Tom could see he had to be a teenage boy. No doubt. And they were always hungry. "Come inside", he said, holding the door open. "Let me fill you up a plate".
As Chat came inside, Tom considered. He was only just getting started on the day's work, and nothing was in the oven yet. Without thinking he said "It's a pity you're not Le Chien Noir, because then I'd whip you up some ouaf-ouaffles".
The black-clad superhero snorted, and Tom realised he'd said that out loud. "Sorry, sorry, don't mind me. I tell myself a lot of jokes in the early hours. Comes with waking before the birds."
"Don't let me stop you", came the reply. "I'm just here for a cui-cuick bite."
They looked at each other. A grin slowly spread across both faces. It was on.
"Want to give me a hand getting these cocoricroissants made? " Tom crowed. "You can take a few with you".
"I cancane do that", Chat duck-squawked back.
"All right, here's a bowl. Take your gloves off and wash and dry your hands. You can ssiffffft the flour. I'll start cutting the butter into cubes."
"You mean cotcotcodet the butter into cubes," Chat clucked. They both laughed.
The animal puns and noises continued back and forth as Tom showed Chat Noir how to rub the butter into the flour, and then how to roll and fold and roll again the dough. A few minutes after that it became a race, each with a circle of rolled dough in front of them sliced into eight segments, seeing who could get their croissants rolled and on the tray first. When the trays were filled to Tom's liking, he shouldered Chat Noir aside. "Meuh-ve over, young man. I need to get to the oven."
Once the trays were in, he turned to the cat. "How about a sandwich while we wait?"
"Great. Pass me two of those béguètes". Chat groaned, but then bleated goat noises at Tom as he handed them over.
The shop's back door opened, and Sabine came in backwards carrying a crate of milk bottles. "Morning, sweetheart. I brought in the milk". She turned to let the door close behind her, and saw Chat Noir standing there with flour smeared up to his elbows. "La vache!" she exclaimed. Tom laughed, pointing at her and the milk. "No, you're la vache. He's Chat Noir!"
Sabine groaned. Chat's natural charm took over and gave him an idea. He quickly grabbed a small serving plate and put a macaron on it. Then he bowed to her, holding the plate out with one hand as an offering. "Pleased to meet you, Mme Cheng. May I offer you a macaronronronron?"
Word list if you're puzzled:
ouaf-ouaf – the sound a dog makes – woof woof
cui-cui – birdsong – tweet tweet
cocorico – rooster – cockadoodle-doo
cancane – duck – quacking
siff – snake – hiss
cotcodet – chicken – cluck cluck
meuh – cow – moo
béguète – goat – to maa or bleat
la vache – literally, cow, used to express surprise like "Holy Cow" in English
ronronron – cat – purr purr purr