Overall, Marinette liked her new apartment well enough. Sure, maybe it was sometimes a little cramped with her living room area converted to her sewing room and with her dining room table shoved up against the wall to make space for her fabric collection. Sure, her neighbors in the next unit over could sometimes be a little loud when their arguments got out of hand. And sure, maybe she had to be careful not to jump around too much whenever she danced around to Jagged Stone's newest songs because if she did, her downstairs neighbors would complain. But her apartment was much closer to her job than her parents' place was, it was on the top floor of the building and had a balcony (perfect for heading off as Ladybug), and it was an end apartment, which meant that she got one less neighbor and an extra wall with windows to let in plenty of natural light, which was perfect for when she worked from home and was sewing in her living room.
But there was one problem that just really bugged her. The windows were filthy, and no cleaning that Marinette did from the inside could fix that. So, like a good renter, she went to the landlady and asked when the window cleaners usually came.
"Oh, we don't have any, dear," Mrs. Taylor told her. She reached around to rummage for something in her desk, pulling a piece of paper out of a file folder she pulled out. "When I had this building renovated, I had windows put in that can be cleaned from the inside so that I wouldn't have to deal with scheduling cleaners. Here's a sheet for how to pop the glass out so you can flip it over and clean it. Is that everything?"
Marinette could only nod as she took the sheet of paper from Mrs. Taylor.
"You can pop the windows out?" Tikki asked in amazement as she and Marinette headed back up the stairs to the top floor. "That sounds dangerous! What if they fall?"
"I know storm windows and screens can come out, and I've already removed those. Or at least the screens. The storm windows were already out." Marinette glanced down at the sheet that she had gotten. "So maybe this will be similar?"
It was not. Even once Marinette had gotten upstairs and had properly read through the sheet, she was no more clear on what she was meant to do than before.
"So I'm meant to slide the bottom open partway, then somehow pop the top out and swing it down," Marinette said, frowning over the instructions. "And then the upper part comes down, and the top pops out for that, too. But how?" Marinette asked, frustrated. "It just says 'push in frame'. But the frame is wood! How am I meant to push that in?"
"It says at the bottom here that it can be hard to get the windows back in properly," Tikki pointed out. "That's not a good sign!"
"No, it's not," Marinette agreed. She glanced from the sheet to the windows again, nerves building in her gut. She didn't want to break anything in her apartment accidentally, and especially not a window. It would create a mess, and it would be expensive to replace. And getting something like that repaired was not in Marinette's budget.
She also didn't want to get a reputation as a terrible renter that broke stuff this early on.
"Maybe your dad could do it," Tikki suggested. "You know that your parents said that you could ask them if you needed help with anything."
"I'd just be worried about him forcing it and breaking the window, then. Papa is really strong from all of the kneading he does. It wouldn't be hard for him to be too strong." Marinette sighed and glanced out the window at the splotchy view. " I just- I want to be able to figure out some things on my own, you know? It feels like I just keep going to my parents for everything, even things that I should be able to figure out. I should try to puzzle it out on my own first, I think."
Tikki looked uncertain. "But Marinette-"
"I should at least try to do it on my own," Marinette decided, stubbornly determined. "I mean, I have an instruction sheet right here. How hard can it be?"
The answer, apparently, was very hard.
"This window sticks," Marinette grumbled as she tried to wrestle the upper pane of glass downward. The lower one had been easier to move, but only just, and she still hadn't been able to pop it out of its track. She could pull harder, but it felt like if she did, something might break.
"Maybe you could ask the landlady to demonstrate how to do it," Tikki suggested, giving the window a little tug of her own. She phased through the glass to give it a little push from the other side, then came back in. "Maybe there's some trick that we're missing?
Marinette didn't even hear her, suddenly struck by a new idea. "Oh! What if you clean the outside? I can pass you some rags to clean with, and we don't have to risk breaking any windows."
"Ooh! I like that idea!" Tikki zipped around, excited. "Let's do it!"
Grinning, Marinette led her way out onto her balcony, snagging her window cleaning supplies on the way. She stepped around the pots of plants that she had crammed onto the balcony on her way to her table, setting the pile of rags and bottle of window spray down before picking a rag up and spraying it, passing it over to her eager kwami. Tikki took it and zipped off towards the closest window. Once she was there, she pressed the rag against the glass and scrubbed as hard as she could.
It...didn't do much. Which really shouldn't have been much of a surprise, really, considering that Tikki was small and could only really apply pressure to a very tiny point.
"I think the window is actually getting more streaky," Marinette told Tikki with a sigh after she had gone to watch from inside after five minutes of enthusiastic scrubbing. "Maybe it's just because there's so much crud built up on the windows, though. I'm willing to bet that the last people who lived here didn't clean them at all while they were here, and there was all sorts of construction going on in the buildings nearby and up on the roof." Even if the landlady didn't normally use window-washers, it would have been nice to at least hire one after work was done on the building. Marinette was sure that she wasn't the only one with awful-looking windows- unless, of course, other people had figured out the secret to popping out the windows to clean them.
Tikki floated back over to the balcony with the rag hanging from her paws. "Maybe it'll just take a few rounds of wiping. That's going to take a while, though. I can't get much of the window all at once."
Marinette made a face. She knew that Tikki was likely right about needing to take several layers of crud off before the window could be properly cleaned, but that would take forever at this rate. As enthusiastic as Tikki was about helping... well, her kwami just couldn't work anywhere near as fast as she could.
"What if I do it?" Marinette asked as another, much more practical idea hit her. "If I transform, I can use my yo-yo to hang from the side of the building like the pros do. Then I can clean a lot faster than you can."
"But what will you say if people ask you why Ladybug is washing your windows?" Tikki wanted to know. "I know that Hawkmoth is in jail, but you still need to keep your identity secret from Paris in case anything else comes up!"
Marinette giggled and tickled Tikki, making her kwami giggle. "I would go out at night! We already know that there aren't any security cameras up here, and I could watch out for traffic down below. If anyone goes by, then all I need to do is zip up to the roof so that no one sees me. Or I can go over to the balcony, if I'm on this side, and just lie down."
"Oh! That could work!" Tikki considered the idea for a moment more. "But what if Chat Noir sees you and wonders why you've been hanging around in one spot for so long?"
Marinette just snorted. "Oh, come on, Tikki. It's not like he goes out every night to patrol. I know his schedule. He won't notice a thing."
Ladybug looked both ways before hopping off of her balcony, swinging around to the big picture window in front. It was the filthiest of all of her windows, since the roof drained right down onto it, and so it made sense to start there.
Ladybug really, really hoped that it wouldn't take that long to finish. She had had to wait until it was fairly late for the traffic- both vehicle and pedestrian- to die down enough that she could actually go out and have a relatively low chance of being sighted, and that meant that she was already tired.
Maybe it would have been a better idea to wait for a weekend, but then people tended to be out even later, and then she would throw off her sleep schedule even more.
Bracing herself with one hand wrapped around her yo-yo and both feet against the bottom of the sill, Ladybug pulled a wet rag out of the pouch that she had attached to a belt wound around her waist and set to work, trying to wipe off the topmost layer of grime. Before she could even completely blacken the first rag, the rumble of an approaching car sent Ladybug zipping up to the roof for cover. She crouched there, waiting for the car's headlights to vanish into the night before swinging back down.
"Oh, come on!" Ladybug complained when the same thing happened twice more in the span of five minutes. "It's late! People should be at home and sleeping by now, not zipping around the city. It's the freaking middle of the week."
Not to be discouraged- she had started this project and she wasn't about to quit, darn it- Ladybug swung back down, returning to her work of scrubbing at the window. It was hard to tell in the low light how much of a difference she was actually making, but she could tell that her rags were getting progressively filthier. Each smear of dirt and grime meant that much less on the windows, which had to be a positive thing.
When the flash of yet another car's headlights filled the street, Ladybug took the opportunity to swing around to her balcony to swap out her supply of soiled rags for fresh ones and hide out there until the car vanished down the street.
Swing back. Wipe and scrub. Get a fresh rag. Wipe some more, until most of the grime was gone. A few spritzes of glass cleaner went on the window once the majority of the grime was gone, and then Ladybug carefully worked it across the glass. It was slow progress- especially since the streets of Paris apparently never slept- but steady, with more and more of the glass looking properly clean in the moonlight.
Ladybug moved around the side of the building, cleaning the window next to her dining room table next. It wasn't as large or as dirty, so it didn't take her as long to clean. Her kitchen window overlooked her balcony, which meant that she had already cleaned it as herself earlier on in her time at the apartment, and that only left the larger window in her bedroom. Ladybug was about to finish up the window she was on and move there when there was a muted thud on her balcony that made her freeze.
"My Lady, what are you doing?"
"Chat Noir!" Ladybug exclaimed, turning towards the familiar voice and trying to look like she wasn't wishing that he wasn't there. Her partner had parked his furry tail on his balcony (without knocking over any of her plants, thankfully) and was standing there, leaning on the railing while he gave her a puzzled look.
She should have listened to Tikki and at least consulted her yo-yo every once in a while to see if her partner was out. Then they wouldn't have this problem, where she would have to explain herself to Chat Noir.
Chat Noir, who knew her probably better than most anybody else despite the masks, and who was ridiculously good at figuring out when she was lying to him. How was she meant to get out of this?
"Are you washing Marinette's windows?" Chat Noir continued, sounding puzzled. "Ladybug, why-?
"I'm doing it as a favor," Ladybug blurted, mind racing as she tried to come up with something that would actually be remotely plausible to persuade Chat Noir that-
Wait. Had he said Marinette's windows? Chat Noir knew that she- well, her civilian self- lived here? How? She floundered a little bit more, properly thrown off guard, and ended up trying to go for something as close to the truth as possible. "Marinette moved in recently and they don't have window cleaners here, but the windows are filthy and it's insanely difficult to get the outsides cleaned. So I'm cleaning them in exchange for. Uh. Some bakery leftovers."
Almost immediately, Ladybug could have smacked herself. She knew that Chat Noir had a huge sweet tooth and absolutely adored baked treats, and in particular baked treats from the Dupain-Cheng bakery. He absolutely would want to know if he could help out and therefore share the goodies, which would mean that she would actually have to obtain some. Not that it would be hard- all Marinette would have to do would be to ask her parents and then swing by shortly after closing- but it was just one more thing to remember.
Bugger. Besides, what if she started having a certain cat hang around her apartment, looking for ways to help in exchange for future baked goods? She knew that Chat Noir wouldn't make a nuisance out of himself if she told him no, but she always had been weak for kitten eyes.
As expected, Chat Noir perked up, ears pricking in interest. "Bakery treats? Aw, why didn't she ask me? I love the stuff her parents make. Can I help?"
...well, she supposed that it couldn't possibly hurt too much.
"We're getting the bulk of the gunk off first," Ladybug explained, quickly finishing off the window that she was on and hopping over to join Chat Noir. She pointed at the pile of dirty rags. She would go inside to search for more or at least rinse out some of the used ones, but that would just leave to more questions. "Normally windows aren't quite this bad, but they haven't been done for forever."
"Oh, yeah, I can tell," Chat Noir said, clambering over to the last window with a rag in his hand and attaching his baton to the side of the building, perching on that to clean. "Even in the dark- eep!" Chat Noir suddenly dropped the rag in his hand and slapped his hand over his eyes, turning away into a crouch. "She doesn't have her curtains closed, and that's her bedroom! My Lady-"
Ladybug was torn between laughing at how dramatic he was being and touched by how courteous her kitty was. No matter what, no one could deny that Chat Noir was a proper gentleman. "She's sleeping at her parents' house tonight, I think. Because she knew that I would probably be making a bit of noise as I moved around, and that wouldn't make it easy for her to sleep."
The hands promptly came off of his eyes. "Oh! Okay, then. That's okay." He scrambled several stories down to retrieve the rag from where it had landed on a balcony. "So what were you saying again?"
Ladybug tried to show Chat Noir how to clean the window, she really did. But no matter what she said, Chat Noir's attempts ended up streaky and smudged. He was obviously trying his hardest, too, his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth and his brow furrowed as he tried and failed to get the glass properly clean.
"I can tell that I'm doing it wrong, even in the dark," Chat Noir complained. "I'm going to just have to give this back to you so that we can finish before morning. It's getting late- car!"
They both dove for the balcony, flattening on it while the car passed by. Ladybug winced as she watched one of her pots wobble, cringing until it settled back down. Chat Noir's head popped up once the car passed. "What are people still doing out? They should be in bed!"
"Some people work night shift," Ladybug reminded him, ignoring the fact that she had been saying much the same thing earlier in the night. "Or other odd hours. But I do wish that there were fewer people out. If someone saw me up here cleaning windows, they might come to some, uh, incorrect conclusions."
"I was thinking the same thing," Chat Noir agreed. "Marinette is so sweet, I would hate for her to be in any danger. Even with Hawkmoth gone..."
Ladybug ducked her head, trying not to blush. Chat Noir knew her civilian self well enough to call her sweet? That was- well, very sweet of him.
It also really made her wonder how often he interacted with her when they were both civilians, since he knew both what she was like and where she lived.
"I can keep an eye out for traffic if you want to finish up," Chat Noir prompted when she didn't take the rag from him. "Since I did kind of keep you from your job for a bit."
"Sweet kitty." Ladybug gave her partner's bell a little jingle as she maneuvered around him. "That would be great. I'll share my treats when I get them."
(She had to muffle a laugh at Chat Noir's little cheer, his tail flicking behind him in excitement. Really, sometimes her kitty was just too eager to please.)
It didn't take Ladybug long to finish, even with the size of the window and one more interruption. It was hard to tell if she had gotten the windows completely streak free- after all, it was dark both outside and in- but they were definitely better than they had been before (and better than what Chat Noir had done).
"Time for bed," Chat Noir announced with a yawn as Ladybug tidied the pile of rags on the balcony table. "I can't wait."
"You didn't have to come out," Ladybug pointed out with a laugh, ducking down automatically as a car went by. She checked her yo-yo. It was well after two in the morning. "Why did you come out so late in the first place?"
"And going out for a run was going to fix that, definitely."
Chat Noir laughed. "Maybe not so much. But hey, I got promised pastries, so it's all worth it."
"Please don't trade sleep for pastries. It's not a healthy life decision."
Chat Noir stuck his tongue out as a response, then yawned widely.
"Time to go," Ladybug prompted, giving her door a longing look- her bed was calling her name, so close but so far- before jumping to the roof to lead the way away from her apartment. "C'mon, kitty kitty."
"D'you think Marinette would mind if I just curled up and took a little cat-nap on her balcony?" Still, Chat Noir followed her, clearly covering another yawn. "Oof, that just really hit like a brick. I was perfectly awake up until just now."
"I think this kitty has to go home for bed, or else he might have people looking for him in the morning," Ladybug teased. "Unless you're going to set an alarm on your baton."
"Nah, I'd probably detransform before morning and then Marinette would come home to find me passed out on her balcony like a weirdo. " Chat Noir stretched, then waved to Ladybug. "Well, good night, my Lady. I'll be going home now."
Ladybug nodded, waving back until Chat Noir had vanished over the skyline. Then she dropped back down onto her balcony, gathering up all of the supplies and heading inside. Everything got dropped on the door mat to be dealt with in the morning.
"Well, that could have gone smoother," Marinette told Tikki as she dropped her transformation. "Now I owe Chat Noir pastries tomorrow night- or I suppose later today, technically."
"But your windows are all nice and clean!" Tikki cheered, zipping towards the closest window. "They're lovely, Marinette. You did a good job!"
Marinette glanced out her window. Even though it was dark outside, she could tell that the view through the window was much clearer. "I did, didn't I? It was all worth it in the end. But now, I think it's time to go to bed, Tikki. We can admire the view in the morning."
Three Years Later
"Okay, all clear," Adrien called to Marinette as he came back into their apartment. He took the pile of rags from her and ducked back out the door to deposit them on their balcony table. "Ready to transform, bugaboo?"
"I can't believe that this has become a tradition," Marinette said with a laugh. She closed the last of the blinds and called for Tikki to transform. "And that this building doesn't have normal window washers, either. What's with that?"
"I can't believe that it's been three years and yet neither of us can figure out how to wash the windows the normal way," Adrien joked, calling on Plagg. He transformed in a flash of light. "I mean, we almost got it that one time. That counts, right?"
Ladybug snorted, remembering their latest attempt to get their windows washed entirely from the inside. Adrien had managed to pop out one of the smaller windows as the instructions told him, but after they had finished cheering in triumph and getting it cleaned to perfection, they couldn't get it back in. No matter how they pushed and shoved, the window only pushed in so far. When they had tried sliding it up, it had only stayed in place of a fraction of a second before slipping right back down. Marinette's father had to come over and snap the window back into place to get it to work again.
After that, they had just decided that cleaning as their superhero selves was easier, even if it required staying up crazy late.
Chat Noir got to work on the first window, wiping a rag across the glass. He had gotten better at not making smudges across the glass once he had gotten a bit of practice in during the day, when he could actually see what he was doing, and even more so after he decided to go out and buy the same sort of squeegee that professionals used. She would have been exasperated about the purchase- rags worked too, after all!- except it did make the work go by faster and when they were working at night, speed was kind of important.
"Remember when you told me that you were doing your own windows as a favor?" Chat Noir asked with a laugh as he exchanged his rag for the squeegee. "And I totally bought it, too. I don't even know how. Looking back, it seems so obvious. Why would Ladybug agree to lose sleep to clean a complete stranger's window?"
"For pastries," Ladybug reminded him, jumping to land behind him on the baton sticking to the side of the building. She pinched his side, making him squeal. "And might I remind you that as soon as you heard about it, you got all pouty that you hadn't been asked?"
As she had expected, her kitty just ducked his head and muttered something incoherent, a blush gracing his cheeks. Ladybug grinned.
No matter what form her boyfriend-slash-partner was in, he was adorable.
They had done the reveal after Master Fu and their kwamis had finally determined that there was nothing coming in to replace Hawkmoth as a threat immediately following his defeat. While there could be problems in the future- there were always people who wanted power, after all- there was no point in the two of them continuing to keep their identities secret from each other for all eternity.
So they had met up in Master Fu's shop and detransformed in front of each other there, exclaiming once the light died away and they actually recognized each other. They had stayed there for hours, chatting and catching up and exclaiming over all of the signs that they had missed until Maser Fu kicked them out so that he could actually meet with one of his clients. Then they had headed back to Marinette's apartment to hang out some more, and by the end of the evening, they were officially dating.
Now they were living together, and could tag-team on the window cleaning without any secrets or excuses between them. It made the whole thing a lot more fun.
"Oh, look, there's Felix," Ladybug said with a giggle, pointing to their small black kitten perched in the windowsill, an equally small black paw trying to bat at the squeegee as Chat Noir dragged it past. Chat Noir grinned when he noticed the cat, focusing even more on that little bit of window so that he could watch the cat.
It was very cute, Ladybug had to admit. But it was also very late, and they could play with their cat at literally any other time. Right now, she just wanted to get the windows done and go to bed.
"Focus, Chat," Ladybug reminded him as she wiped down the rest of the window. "Felix is cute, but it's late and we both have work tomorrow."
"Oh! Right, right, of course, my Lady." Chat Noir gave one last swipe for Felix to bat at, then moved his attention to the rest of the window. "I'm focused, I'm focused!"
Aside from a few more distractions (Felix was really insistent on following them around, and naturally Chat Noir had to tease their cat at least a little), the two of them worked together like a well-oiled machine, working their way around the outside of their apartment as fast as they could. Their neighborhood was a little quieter than where Marinette had been before, which meant less traffic and fewer interruptions. Still, it was Paris, and they still had to hide a few times when cars or pedestrians passed by below.
"Good job, team," Ladybug said tiredly as she and Chat Noir finished up the last window. They exchanged a fist bump and then jumped back to the balcony. "Now we have our clean windows, and we can go to bed."
"Someone is a grumpy bug when it gets late," Chat Noir said fondly, reaching over to ruffle her hair as they set things down on their lovely, large balcony. "All right, my Lady. Let's go to bed."
A/N: Like a great many of my stories, this is a one-shot and is therefore complete. As always, reviews make my day!
This particular story was inspired this past summer (and I've been too busy to finish it before now, whoops) after I had to clean some of the windows in my family's house. I can never get the windows out and even if I do, it's impossible to pop them back into place. I got frustrated and, as per usual, made a fic out of it :D