“I think you’re really going to like it here, Adrikins,” Chloe said, pressing a button on the elevator panel.
“It’s lucky something opened up when I was looking,” Adrien grinned, adjusting the strap of his messenger bag.
“Oh, please. Luck had nothing to do with it. I told the guy in your new apartment to get out or I was raising his rent to four times what it was.”
Adrien gaped at her. “Chloe, that’s illegal!”
“He didn’t know that,” she sniffed. “Besides, he was always at his boyfriend’s place anyway. It’s not like I put him on the streets; he just moved down a couple of floors. They’re happier like this. Probably.”
“Don’t worry so much. Everything is going to be perfect. You only have one person living above you, me, of course, and there are only three other apartments on your floor because I wanted you to have one of the big ones.”
“That sounds nice.”
“It can be. The guy in 13D plays his music too loud sometimes. Feel free to yell at him. I always do.”
The elevator doors slid apart and Chloe stepped out, looking back at him. “Aren’t you coming?”
“Um, are there any available apartments that aren’t on the thirteenth floor?” Adrien winced.
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Are you really still like this?”
“I’m supernaturally unlucky. You know that! Why chance it by literally moving onto the statistically unluckiest floor number?” He felt Plagg snicker inside his jacket pocket.
“I forgot what a nerd you can be. Come on, this is all I have and it’s going to be fine.” Adrien bit his lip and Chloe had to put her hand on the door so it wouldn’t slide closed again. “Would you rather stay at home with dear old Daddy?”
Adrien narrowed his eyes and stepped off the elevator, pulling his suitcases with him. “Well, I won’t be taking that thing anymore,” he sighed, looking back as the metal doors slid closed with a hydraulic whoosh. “I’m surprised the cable didn’t go out on the way up.”
“You should be medicated. You can’t walk up and down twelve flights of stairs every day.”
“You underestimate me,” he winked. “Alright, show me to my tomb.”
Nathaniel grimaced when a picture of an angry-looking cartoon bee popped up on his phone screen.
“Just don’t answer it,” Juleka muttered, changing the channel on his small television. “You’re off duty. Her highness can deal.”
“I have a feeling this one’s on me,” he sighed, dropping his paintbrush in the water cup. “Can you hand me that clipboard on the table, Rose?”
“Oh no, did you forget to change the locks on Kim’s old place?” she asked.
Nathaniel popped his forehead and stood. “Of course I did. Well, at first I just wasn’t doing it out of spite, but then with the waiting, I guess I actually did forget.”
“Wish me luck.”
Juleka titled her head back, one eye peeking out from her curtain of hair. “Good luck or whatever.”
“Ooo, I think he’s cute,” Alya grinned back at Marinette before returning her attention to the peephole.
“I’m telling Nino.”
“I’ll tell him myself. We’re not exclusive.”
“Doe he know that?” Marinette laughed. “Are you going to spy on the new guy all day or are you going to help me with this dress?”
“You only asked me over for moral support anyway,” Alya said, waving a hand. She turned away from the door. “When does this one have to go out?”
“By Wednesday, and I’ve got a backlog of other commissions waiting.”
“It is but I’m exhausted.”
“Turn off your orders then.” Alya dropped down on the couch and curled up on her side so she could watch Marinette work.
“This is my only source of income right now. If I turn off my orders, I don’t make money and then I can’t pay rent and then I no longer live here.”
“No money, mo problems,” Alya sighed dramatically.
“You should’ve had this done already. I put in the order at the beginning of the week. I’m not paying you for this,” Chloe huffed as Nathaniel knelt in front of the door, fiddling with the new lock.
“You don’t pay me for anything,” he shot back.
Chloe crossed her arms. “Fine, then I’m charging you rent this month.”
“Chloe, it’s really okay. I don’t mind,” Adrien interjected, pushing his couch against the wall.
“It’s not okay. He literally has one job and can’t seem to get that right. I’m going to start interviewing for someone new this week.”
Nathaniel’s back stiffened but he kept quiet as he finished installing the lock.
“This actually worked out because I needed to meet the building handyman anyway,” Adrien grinned, crossing the room and offering his hand. “You might hear from me a lot. I’m a little hopeless when it comes to fixing stuff.”
Nathaniel stood, shaking his hand. His eyes flitted to Chloe for a moment. “Honestly I’ve been learning on the job myself. I’ll leave my number with you and work hours though, and you can call whenever you need anything done.”
“You’ll need to go through me, Adrikins. Kurtzberg seems to forget that a lot.” Chloe shot him a pointed look. “I need records of what he’s actually done around here to decide if it’s worth his rent every month.”
“Oh, so you live in the building?”
“In the basement,” Nathaniel replied dryly. “Some friends helped me convert an old storage space into a livable area.”
“Where he lives for free,” Chloe added. “Well, that’s all for now.” She waved her hand in dismissal and Adrien grimaced.
Nathaniel gathered up his tools without a word. Adrien held out his hand again and Nathaniel took it once more. “It was really nice to meet you, Nathaniel.”
“You too, Adrien.”
Adrien turned to Chloe once they were alone. “You could be nicer, you know.”
“I could be living on the beach in the penthouse of Daddy’s new hotel but instead I’m stuck here ‘learning responsibility’,” she scoffed, sticking out her tongue as the elevator closed on Nathaniel’s irritated face. She shut the apartment door and dropped down on Adrien’s couch. “I’m actually really glad you’re here. I’ve been lonely.”
He sat down beside her. “I thought you said most of the residents here are our age.”
“What’s that have to do with anything?”
“I guess I thought you would be friends with people here.”
“I can’t be friends with them, Adrien. Sometimes I have to kick them out. Besides, they’re all bores anyway.”
“I doubt that’s true.”
“Fine, some of them are borderline okay. That doesn’t mean I want to be friends with them.” She looked around the apartment. “Please tell me you have more than those two bags you brought up.”
“Of course I do. You gave me this couch.” He patted the cushion with a forced smile.
“Fine, look, my father said if I was moving out, I could take some clothes but that was it. He said I had to figure things out on my own.”
“That asshole threw you out with nothing?!” Chloe grabbed her phone and Adrien plucked it from her fingers.
“Not exactly. I made the choice to leave. And I’m still one of his models. I still have a job and the money that was already in my bank account.”
“That doesn’t make it not shitty.”
He shrugged. “I don’t really need much. A bed would be nice. I’ll order one tonight.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever understand you.”
“Believe me, Chlo, the feeling’s mutual.”
“In what universe did we need four pizzas?” Alya asked, shaking her head as Nino set the boxes on the counter.
“I had a coupon!”
“You didn’t have to use it, goof,” she teased, leaning up to kiss his cheek.
He grinned and turned his head, tapping his other cheek. “You missed a spot.” Alya released an exaggerated sigh before kissing him again.
“Yeah, you guys definitely aren’t exclusive,” Marinette said, moving past them. “Just get married already.”
“Alya wants to keep her options open. She doesn’t realize how awesome I am yet,” Nino confided, leaning against the counter and watching Marinette pull plates and glasses down from his cabinets.
“Sounds like me,” Alya replied, flipping one of the tops open. “We are never going to eat all this.”
“I should call Nath. I bet he hasn’t had dinner yet.” Marinette crossed the room, scooping her phone off the coffee table.
“Or lunch, knowing him,” Nino added, swiping a breadstick from one of the smaller boxes. “I’ll still never know how some people forget to eat. I base my whole day on when my meals are.”
“Some people just don’t know the joys of a simple life,” Marinette winked, holding the phone up to her ear.
“Ooo, we should go next door and invite the new guy over. He was cute. I want to set him up with Mari.”
“I heard that,” Marinette warned. “There will be no setting up!”
Alya ignored her, grabbing two slices of the vegetarian pizza. “Although he might be an asshole. Chloe did force Kim out just so this guy could move in. It’s probably for the best that we leave him alone.”
Marinette huffed, joining them again. “You know I don’t like it when you make assumptions like that. He could be perfectly nice.”
Nino offered them each a beer and Marinette shook her head. “Nath?”
“On his way up.”
Alya flipped the cap off her drink and took a sip. “Since you think the new guy is so perfectly nice, you should go invite him over.”
“Don’t think I don’t see exactly what you’re doing, missy. Why doesn’t Nino invite him over? This is his apartment, after all.”
Nino shrugged and moved towards the door.
“Cesaire?” He returned, looking back at her.
“I think Dupain-Cheng should go.”
“What is happening with names right now?” Marinette asked with a chuckle. “Fine, I will go ask him to come over and he will be a nice guy and there will be no setting up, deal?”
“Whatever you say, M.”
“I need to find a new best friend,” Marinette muttered as she and Nino passed each other.
“I know. Isn’t she the best?”
Adrien placed the picture of his mom on the counter and nodded in satisfaction. It felt good to be unpacked. Granted, he only had the one picture frame to unpack at the moment but he considered himself accomplished. A knock on the door grabbed his attention and he crossed the room and looked through the peephole. A pretty girl around his age stood on the other side of the door, biting her lip and looking down the hall. He quickly pulled the door open. “Hi.”
She blinked at him in surprise, bottom lip dropping open for a moment before she spoke. “Oh, um, hi!” She waved awkwardly and winced. “I’m Marinette, your neighbor.” She gestured behind her to 13B. “Some of the people from the building are eating pizza and since you’re new we wanted to see if you would like to join us.” Her cheeks were a warm pink by the time she got done speaking.
“That sounds great!” he exclaimed, voice a little too loud. He felt heat flash over his skin.
“Great!” Marinette echoed, face turning darker. “Uh, we’re at Nino’s in 13D. Just come over whenever you want.” She began to turn away when Adrien reached out to touch her arm.
“Is it okay if I invite my friend, Chloe?”
Marinette grimaced. “Chloe, who runs the building, Chloe?”
Adrien frowned. “Would that not be okay?”
“Um, sure, that’s fine,” she nodded, expression blank. “We’ll see you guys in a bit.”
“Marinette, I thought you were going back to Nino’s for dinner,” Tikki said, zipping out of Marinette’s hoodie pocket as soon as they were safe inside her apartment.
“I am, I just need a minute.”
“Because the new guy is so cute?” Tikki teased with a smile.
“Did you see his eyes and his lips and his hair?” Marinette groaned. “He is way too cute and apparently into Chloe.”
“How do you know?”
“Because he wants to bring her to dinner.”
“You shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”
She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter anyway. If I can’t date Chat, I don’t really want to think about dating anyone else.”
“Come on, Tikki, let’s go to dinner.”