Ladybug scrunched her nose up in irritation as she looked down at the jumble of words on paper. How could anyone stand to just sit there and try to decipher them? Life was too short to try and make heads or tails of Shakespeare… in English no less! She had no idea how Adrien actually managed to enjoy reading these long, convoluted, old English plays for fun. Ladybug was having trouble just making it through a single passage. She had no idea how she was going to read and understand the entire play before her assignment was due.
“Whatcha readin'” Chat Noir’s bubbly voice called out to her.
Ladybug screamed in surprise and jumped about five feet in the air. She managed to hit poor Chat in the chin because he’d been hovering over her shoulder without her realizing it. Okay, so that one was probably his own fault seeing as how he’d sneaked up on her. Just the same though. His jawbone was hard. “Ow!” whined Ladybug as she rubbed the top of her head.
“You’re telling me.” Chat Noir complained right back. He was massaging his chin. “I always knew you were hard headed but I didn’t realize just how much so.”
“Ha ha ha… you are so funny.” Ladybug told him as she rolled her eyes.
“So I’ve been told.” he shrugged. Chat Noir dropped his hand and once more glanced over her shoulder. “So what are you reading tonight?”
Ladybug pursed her lips and held up the book for him to see. “Some Shakespeare play for class. We had to chose one to do an independent reading project on.”
Chat Noir’s face lit up. A smile stretched from ear to ear. “No way! You’re reading Shakespeare too? I love Shakespeare!”
“I don’t.” grumbled Ladybug. “I hate reading.”
“And here I thought you were my perfect woman.” Chat Noir teased lightly. He said it so offhandedly which made her think that he hadn’t really thought before speaking. Chat Noir did that sometimes, especially when he got excited. Ladybug knew that he had a giant crush on her. He hadn’t exactly been subtle about it. She had firmly but kindly told him that she didn’t reciprocate his feelings and Chat Noir had promptly, and willingly, backed off. He still made a few flirty remarks here or there but that was just who he was. He never meant anything by them and he went out of his way to make sure she never felt uncomfortable. Ladybug appreciated that.
“I’m sure you’ll find someone else who’s more up to your standards.” she told him with an eyeroll.
Chat Noir shrugged, “My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground. And yet by Heaven, I think my love as rare, as any she belied with false compare.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ladybug asked in slight irritation. Cats.
“Shakespeare’s sonnet 130.” he said simply and leaving it at that. Ladybug suppressed a sigh. She should’ve known better than to ask a cat for a straight answer. Sometimes she felt like she should be calling Chat Noir the chesire cat instead. She didn’t have time to press it though because Chat Noir had plopped down beside her and was leaning at an odd angle to read the cover of her book. “What play are you reading?”
“I don’t know… Much Ado About Nothing I think.” answered Ladybug. Chat Noir let out something that kind of sounded like an excited squawk.
“Really! That’s one of my favorites! That one and Twelfth Night are two of the best comedies ever written.” he said. He was speaking so fast that his words ran together.
“It isn’t even remotely funny.” Ladybug told him in exasperation. How could anyone find this old stuffy play funny?
“What part are you at?” Chat Noir demanded. He held out his hand and flexed his fingers in a “gimme, gimme” type way. Ladybug handed over her book with a long and tired sigh.
“I haven’t even made it past act one, scene one yet.” she told him as he flipped through the pages like a cat possessed.
“Oh so you haven’t reached any of the really fun stuff where like Benedict straight up acts like a love struck fourteen year old boy and runs off to get what equates to Beatrice’s school picture.” Chat Noir said.
Ladybug shook her head, “No, but does that really happen?”
“Oh yeah that happens after Claudio, the Prince, and Hero’s dad basically make up some giant lie to convince Benedict that Beatrice is in love with him.
“Okay, I know I didn’t understand much but I got the impression that neither Benedict nor Beatrice liked each other.” Ladybug pointed out. She was seriously beginning to doubt her partner’s comprehension of the story.
“They don’t in the beginning which is why Beatrice basically calls Benedict the Black Plague and Benedict acts all surprised that Beatrice is still alive. There! ‘You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her.'” Chat Noir pointed to a line on the page.
“Okay, so how do these two become a couple if they can’t stand each other? That makes no sense.” Ladybug asked as she waved her hand in the direction of the book. “And how do you even understand this?”
“I like reading. Understanding this just takes time and practice. Sometimes seeing it acted out on stage helps too. When I first read it, I watched a couple of productions on the internet and read along.”
“I guess that makes sense. All the same, do you mind explaining exactly how these two go from throwing out insults every time they see each other to one of them acting like some crazy school boy and wanting his own picture of her.”
Chat Noir smirked, “Well I don’t think that they actually hate each other. I think they’re just so caught up in teasing and making fun of one another that everyone around them is literally yelling ‘just kiss already.'”
“You sure about that? That isn’t what I got from it.” Ladybug commented dubiously.
“Non, non! It’s how the challenge starts.”
“Claudio has issues with patience. He meets a girl, asks her to marry her the same day, but then can’t hitched the next. He has to wait a week. Thankfully his good buddy the Prince, Don Pedro, comes to his rescue and says ‘gee wouldn’t it be fun to make Benedict and Beatrice an item? I bet we can do it in a week if we all work together!'” explained Chat Noir. There was a wide smile on his face as he threw more enthusiasm into his synopsis than any literature teacher she’d ever had. Wow, he hadn’t been joking when he’d told her liked to read. Something about the story still didn’t add up though.
“Wait! When does Claudio ask a girl to marry him? Which girl? Hero?” Ladybug asked in exasperation. “I don’t remember even seeing something like that!”
“You’re not there yet. You’ll have to read on in order to find out.” Chat Noir teased as he offered her book back to her.
“Help a girl out Chat.” begged Ladybug. “Please!”
“Well, when you ask so nicely…” Chat Noir grinned. He opened the book back to the start of the scene. “So like with any good Shakespearean drama it starts with love and misunderstanding.”
It was a quiet Parisian evening. There were no akumas to fight or villains to track down so Ladybug settled back on to her rooftop perch and listened to Chat Noir turn a stuffy, old, Shakespeare play into something that was genuinely funny. Thank goodness for partners.