For Feral!Adrien: is there a Tikki anywhere here? 0.o
When she is six years old, Marinette and her parents visit the Parc des Félins. Marinette could barely sleep the night before. She’s been to the Ménagerie du Jardin des plantes, which is a lot closer to their house, but this is her first time in this enormous zoo dedicated to cats. For the occasion, she asked her mother to fix her hair into two buns—like really round cat ears!—and chose to wear her cheeriest overall shorts. Her father hoists her up on his shoulders so she can see further into the enclosures, over the heads of the tall adults.
The zoo has many kinds of felines from different parts of the world, but there’s one cat that Marinette is most excited to see: a new leopard that everyone’s talking about, one with the most unusual fur.
By the time they arrive at the leopard enclosure after hours of walking, the crowd is already beginning to thin.
“Good afternoon,” greets the stocky zookeeper standing by the fence.
“Good afternoon,” her mother replies, “Our daughter would like to see the new leopard. We were informed that it favors this side of the enclosure…”
“Yes, that’s right,” the zookeeper confirms. “She’s usually hiding up in the trees over there. I haven’t seen her all day from here, though… Looks like the ol’ girl is shy, as usual.”
“She’s shy?” Marinette asks as her father puts her back down on the ground. “Why is she shy?”
The zookeeper—”O. Césaire”, as the name patch on his chest reads—crouches down to Marinette’s level and lowers his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.
“I’m sure your maman and papa told you about our Tikki. That she is different from other leopards?”
Marinette nods vigorously. “She has special fur,” she whispers back.
“Yes, Tikki has very special fur. Because of it, some bad people chased her and tried to harm her. Oh, but don’t worry! Tikki is very lucky! Good people were able to save her, and now she’s here so that she can be protected from other bad people. Because of the bad people from before, though, she likes to hide in the trees so that no one can see her.”
“So… So she doesn’t like people?”
“Well—” the zookeeper rubs his dark beard in consideration “—she doesn’t like showing herself to the public, but she’s always at her best behavior when I feed her.”
“Tikki is a nice leopard, then?”
“Tikki is a very nice and friendly leopard!”
“Oh! Maybe she’ll like me if I share my cookies with her! I have chocolate chip ones!”
“Sweetie,” her father cuts in, “we can’t feed the animals in the zoo, remember?”
Marinette pouts. She really wants to see Tikki—she’d already made a doll version of her with the help of her mother when she found out about her. And her father makes the best cookies! She’s sure Tikki would like them!
“Is there any chance for us to see her today?” her mother asks.
“The Parc is open for another 30 minutes, if you want to wait,” the zookeeper offers as he glances back at the trees in the enclosure. “But Tikki doesn’t usually- Oh!”
Marinette, immediately alert, follows his gaze just in time to see what might have been a blur of spots and pink jump down from a tree branch. It quickly blends back into the brown hues of the trees and the ground.
“Was that her?” Marinette asks, excitedly tugging her father’s hand even as she keeps her eyes trained on that specific patch of grass.
Before her father could answer, the leopard with the very special fur carefully rises from the camouflage of the grass around her. In slow, deliberate movement, she lifts a paw and takes a step forward.
Marinette can hardly breathe. She was the one who begged her parents to visit the zoo so she can meet Tikki, but now that she’s seeing the mysterious creature with her own eyes, she feels fear nervously thud against the awe in her chest.
Tikki’s tail sways from side to side as she walks, her attentive ears standing to their tips. She is a leopard, through and through, but like the zookeeper said, she has very special fur. Instead of the golden hue that others of her kind have, her spots are splattered across an incredible coat of rosy pink.
She reaches the enclosure’s fence, right in front of Marinette, and only then does she stop.
From where she’s standing, Marinette sees that the leopard’s eyes are wide and intelligent and strikingly blue. Tikki’s long whiskers twitch. And then her eyelids lower—and lower and lower—until she blinks. Marinette smiles, carefully raising her hand in a small wave.
“Hello Tikki,” she greets under her breath. “I’m Marinette.”