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Collège Françoise Dupont

It all began innocently enough: Adrien grabbed Marinette’s hand.

During lunch at the Collège, Fred Haprèle put on an impromptu mime performance at the park. Adrien excitedly asked Marinette if she wanted to go, and at her wordless nod, had grabbed her hand and run off with her.

But the camera saw.

 

Offices of 93STYLE

“Listen Marie, I know this is a big story, but we have to be careful. Agreste has lawyers. We have had his son on our cover before. If you want to use this, we need something more . Any idea who the girl is?”

“Yes! She’s Marinette Dupain-Cheng. She designed that bowler hat that Adrien wore, her family’s bakery is where Stone pretended to be a baker for a day, and she’s been seen out in public with him before. I really do think we have something here.”

“Mon Dieu, that business with Stone and his assistant. OK, fine, get some background material on her. But carefully : I don’t care if somebody gets akumatized over this, but we can’t be there when it happens. Style and Society magazine, not True Crime, got it?”

“Got it, boss!”

 

Tom & Sabine Boulangerie Patisserie

Tom looked up as the young woman came in, followed by a man with a camera. “Good morning! What brings you to our humble bakery this fine Saturday?”

She smiled, “Well, monsieur, I am Marie Desmarais, from the magazine 93STYLE . Your daughter’s work recently came to our attention: a few things for Jagged Stone, a hat for the Agrestes, and so forth! We were hoping we could do a little article on her, give her future career a little boost?”

“Oh, of course! Just a moment. Sabine! Marinette! We have visitors!

Marie spent time with the family asking about Marinette’s designs, the bakery business, how Tom and Sabine met, Marinette’s school life…and, of course, a few questions about Adrien.

“Oh…heh-heh! Adrien! Of course! We time a lot of spend together! I mean we spend a lot of time together! Well, I mean not a lot a lot, because he has all these extra lessons and his modeling work, but I sit right behind him in class, and sometimes we get to do cool stuff like play video games or go watch a show together! Um, want a macaron? Made it myself!”

“Merci, Marinette!” Gotcha!

 

All Over Paris

The cover of 93STYLE :

Tom, Sabine and Marinette laughing and waving at the camera from behind the counter.

Below that:

THE FUTURE AGRESTE IN-LAWS?

We have the scoop!

 

Marinette’s Room

“TIKKI! Now Mr. Agreste is going to think I am some weird stalking social climber and I’ll never work in fashion or design because he will blacklist me and worse Adrien won’t be able to come over again not even to buy a Chocolat Au Pain after school and my parents will have to close the bakery and we’ll move to Le Havre—or maybe London—and work in someone else’s bakery to hide from his lawyers and MY LIFE IS RUINED!”

Tikki just sighed and munched on a cookie.

Different Week, Same Stupid Crap.

 

Downstairs

Sabine just sat at the table, staring at the article with cold, calculating eyes. Tom sighed and poured her some more tea. She took a sip, eyes never leaving the magazine. Finally Tom said quietly, “Mon amour…please don’t kill anybody.”

A soft snort was her only response.

 

Adrien’s Room

“Wha-? They think Marinette and I are going to marry someday?”

“What’s wrong, kid, you don’t think Pigtails would make a good wife?”

“Of course she’d make a good wife! She’s smart, and talented, and pretty, and caring, and do you remember that time when….” and the oblivious boy was off again.

Plagg just sighed and ate another wedge of cheese.

Different Week, Same Stupid Crap.

 

Gabriel’s Atelier

Gabriel set the magazine down, expression more thoughtful than angry. “Nathalie, our PR and Legal teams will have their work cut out for them on this one. However, in light of that picture of Adrien and Ms. Dupain-Cheng holding hands, I should like to know exactly what his relationship with her is before I set policy.”

“Of course, sir. I will go ask him about that right now.”

Picking up her pad, Nathalie turned and headed out to speak to the Agreste heir.

It was time for a Father-Son Talk.

At a distance. Always at a distance.

Different Week, Same Stupid Crap.

 

Adrien’s Room

Plagg was going to hack up some cheese if his wielder didn’t shut up about that girl soon. Then his cat-ears picked up salvation—of a sort—approaching.

“Cool it, kid, Heartless is coming!” Plagg dove into Adrien’s shirt while the kid quickly swept away the debris of the Kwami’s comfort-cheese. (Hey, listening to love-sick fools takes energy.)

Nathalie knocked once, then came in. “Ah, Adrien, there you are. And I see you are aware of the cover of 93STYLE .”

“Yeah, um, about that picture inside, we were just running off to see a show in the park during lunch, I guess somebody took it all out of context.”

“Is that so? Adrien, your father would like to know exactly what your thoughts are about Ms. Dupain-Cheng.”

So he told her.

At great length.

Finally she nodded and said, “I believe I understand, now. Very well, I will inform your father, and then he will tell us how we will proceed.”

After she left, Adrien turned to Plagg. “Plagg, was it just me, or was Nathalie trying not to laugh ?”

“Heartless is weird, kid, and I’ve known some weird humans. That’s why I prefer cheese.”

“Yeah, you’re no help!”

 

Gabriel’s Atelier

Nathalie entered, looking grave. “Sir, I fear I have some terrible news: Adrien has just been diagnosed with a disease that he inherited from another member of his family.”

Gabriel dropped the shawl he had been examining and whirled, “WHAT? But, I just sent you to talk to him! Are you saying he has been to see the Doctor in that time?”

“No, sir, but the infection is obvious. It is hardly fatal, but I fear that, like his father before him, he is still too early in the course of the illness to even realize he is showing symptoms. Perhaps we can start treating it sooner?”

Gabriel stood up straight, starting to realize he was being mocked. “Madame Sancouer, if you wish to remain in my employ, you will explain yourself. Now.”

“Sir, I questioned Adrien regarding his relationship with Marinette Dupain-Cheng. He spoke at great length of her stellar qualities and achievements—many of which I did confirm through my own research—but his final words on the matter proved to me that some things are, in fact, genetic. The last time I heard those words in that tone was from a young design student speaking of a theater student in university. He was making her costume for a play, as I recall.”

Gabriel looked stunned, and then sank down in his chair, hiding his face in his hands. “Oh no…oh, my son ….”

“Yes, sir. ‘She’s Just A Friend.’”

“Nathalie, stop. You are enjoying this far too much.”

“My apologies, sir. I will attempt to restrict my enjoyment of your family curse to my off-duty hours in future.”

Gabriel just whimpered softly, and Nathalie fought to keep the deadpan expression that was her most important professional tool.

Finally he took out a handkerchief, wiped his eyes and mopped his brow.

“Very well. Please invite her parents to come speak with me.

“We should meet the future In-Laws.”

 

In the car

Nathalie slid into the back seat, and Gérard turned and gave her a questioning look.

“We are going to the Dupain-Chengs. I am sure you know where it is: I have seen enough of their boxes and bags in your waste-bin. No doubt from all the times you took Adrien by there when he was scheduled elsewhere.”

Gérard just grunted and put the car in gear.

“We are going to invite them to come meet with Monsieur Agreste and discuss the children’s future. We will also purchase a selection of their delicacies for the staff meeting this evening.”

Gérard nodded.

“It would appear their daughter is in love with Adrien, and Adrien does not realize yet that he feels the same way about her.”

A snort from the front seat.

Different Week, Same Stupid Crap.

But more of those pastries. Man his size needs the calories.

Gérard made a mental note to sneak a few extra to the kid.

 

Gabriel’s Atelier, the next day

It had been agreed that the parents should meet while the teens were in school. Introductions had been made, and brief pleasantries, and then they got down to business.

“…so it is obvious to me that Adrien is genuinely interested in your daughter, though I shall need to counsel him regarding the depths of his own feelings. We Agreste men have a…history…of a certain obliviousness in these matters, I must admit. So I propose a series of carefully orchestrated and chaperoned dates and social events, which Nathalie will coordinate with you on—“

Sabine ahem ed. “Hold it right there. They are teenagers , and should be allowed unstructured time together to explore their own feelings. Perhaps the theme park—with his bodyguard along, of course—would be a better way for them to spend some quality time together without having to put on a show for the media.”

“Madame, it is an unfortunate fact that my son—and whomever he spends time with—shall always be in the sights of the media.”

“I have had my own experience with the media , sir, and I assure you that I know how to keep them in line!”

Battle was joined. They did not yell, or threaten, or use harsh words, but each side had their own view of the proper care and feeding of teenagers (and “feeding” did come up—Sabine was not going to let Gabriel dictate the menu when Adrien came over for dinner!) Off to the side, Nathalie tapped at her pad and then held it up for Tom to see.

Coffee? I have a pot going in the outer office.

Tom nodded, and withdrew with her. The negotiators took no notice of their leaving.

Nathalie handed Tom a cup (the same one she kept for Gérard), and said, “I would like to apologize. Monsieur Agreste is very protective of his son, and of his family image.”

“We are very protective of Marinette, but we understand we can’t always be there for her. She does have to grow up, and learn.” Then Tom grimaced and took a gulp of his coffee. That could be taken as a criticism, after all. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—“

“Oh, but you should. I think this meeting is going to be very…developmental…for Monsieur Agreste. You may recall the Christmas Party: I, too, have had concerns about Adrien being overly sheltered. Gérard certainly has: he believed I had no idea he was letting Adrien visit your bakery for pastries, and for video games and study sessions. Those visits were all too few, but now I think they will become regular affairs—if you permit.”

Tom spread his arms wide, “That boy is welcome in our home any time. And not just because Marinette likes him: he’s a good kid.

Nathalie smiled a bit. “Yes, yes he is. Occasionally a little frustrating, but: aren’t they all, at that age?”

They had fallen into chatting amiably about the joys and terrors of raising teenagers when the intercom beeped. “Nathalie, Sabine and I have finished our…negotiations. Please bring her husband and a fresh pot of coffee—we’ll all have a cup before they go.”

She punched the button, “Of course, sir!” Sabine? Goodness, now they are on a first-name basis. Progress unexpected.

Tom had already taken over the coffee machine. “One pot, coming up! I know how Sabine likes hers, pass me the cup.”

When they were finally alone, Nathalie queried Gabriel with a raised eyebrow.

“Madame Cheng is one of the most formidable people I have ever conducted business with. We have agreed that, due to the demands of the business, a few formal engagements will be required. I will assist with fabric, supplies, and most importantly advice so Marinette may design her own outfits for those. Invite her over on Saturday: I need to see her sketches.”

“Yes, sir.”

“After that, however, make sure that there is open space in Adrien’s schedule.”

 

The Dupain-Cheng household

Marinette was just home from school (no akuma this entire week! She was getting caught up!) and Sabine and Tom smiled and waved at her as she came in the door. Her mother took her jacket to hang up, saying, “Welcome home, sweetie! We met with Gabriel Agreste and set you up on a date with Adrien for Saturday afternoon! Saturday morning you meet with Mr. Agreste to show him your designs, though.”

“What?”

“An unstructured date with Adrien! You two will have some cash, and you can go take a boat ride, or go up the Eiffel Tower, or maybe even go watch a movie together!”

“Wh-wh-WHAT?”

“But tonight you should go through your sketchbooks and pick out your best designs!”

“WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHHHAAAAAATTT!?!”

“Dear, you’ve broken her.”

“Best to get it all done at once, dear. Marinette? You have a date with Adrien on Saturday. You’re welcome.”

She ran upstairs and screamed into a pillow for half an hour straight. Sabine lost the bet: she expected at least forty-five minutes.

 

Agreste Foyer

Nathalie approached Adrien as he came in the door. “Adrien, your schedule has changed. On Saturday morning your photoshoot has been shortened. You are to be done before lunch. Saturday afternoon you will take Marinette Dupain-Cheng on a date. Gérard will tag along, but you and she will have money to pursue whatever you wish within reason. I remind you that kissing on the first date is frowned upon, however holding hands is acceptable, especially as you already do so. Now please do your homework, the Chinese Tutor will be here soon.”

Adrien walked into his room like a zombie, ignoring the muffled cackling from his bag. He flopped gracelessly into his chair.

Finally, “A date with Marinette! That’s great! But what about Ladybug?”

Plagg groaned.

“Kid, shut up and do your homework. Just…just think of the date as a practice date for Ladybug, OK? I mean, they have a lot in common!”

“Yeah…yeah! That’s a great idea, Plagg!”

Oh, it was just too easy.

 

Eiffel Tower, Upper Levels, Friday Night

Chat approached Ladybug carefully. She had not responded to his greeting when he arrived for patrol, just sat there staring out at the city lights.

“Bugaboo? Something wrong?”

She gave a choked little laugh, “Wrong? Um…everything is going right and I don’t know how to cope?”

He sat next to her—not touching, just close enough to offer comfort. “Do you want to talk about it? I mean, I know our identities have to remain secret, but I will listen to whatever you have to say.”

He was totally unprepared for the storm this unleashed, “So there is this boy I like, OK? I mean like like, like a lot , but I have always been too much of a dork to just tell him . Except now things have gotten weird, because his Dad found out I like this boy, and his Dad thinks this boy likes me back, and my parents got involved, plus his Dad is this really big name in the field I want to pursue as a career, so tomorrow morning I meet his father for career counseling , and then tomorrow afternoon they set me up on a date with my crush , and he is being so sweet about it, he told me we’ll do whatever I want to do, and I am losing my mind because I have a date with the boy I love and no idea what I want to do with him how is my life such a chaotic failure I am going to ruin everything because I don’t even know where to go on our first date I just know what I want to name our hamsters after we’re married!”

Chat Noir’s jaw had dropped, hit the ground at the base of the Eiffel Tower, and bounced back up to his face.

Oh.

Ohhhhhh.

He was an idiot. (A laughing little god in the back of his mind emphatically agreed.) So, like an idiot he opened his mouth.

“Well, Hawkmoth appears to be on vacation, so you probably won’t have to fight any akumas tomorrow!”

UGH! Chat, what do I do ?”

“Well, you tell him to write down three things he likes, and you write down three things you like, and you take turns drawing them out of a hat until you run out of things or run out of date.”

Ladybug turned and stared at him, wide-eyed. “Oh…oh, Chat, I could kiss you, but I won’t, and I want to kiss him , but I can’t because rules , not this time, and…I gotta go find a hat, bye!” And she swung away.

Chat Noir smiled dreamily after her. “Rules were made to be broken…Marinette.”

 

Gabriel’s Atelier, Saturday just before lunch

“So, while I think these are a bit overdone—good practice, of course, but hardly worth the fabric, this pile certainly shows potential. This design I have put to one side because I would like to purchase the rights to it from you.”

Marinette gulped. She thought her parents were joking when they set that rule. “Um, sir, that is so, so flattering, but my parents told me that if you wanted any…uh…if you want to make any deals, you have to talk to my mother.”

Gabriel’s lips twitched just a bit. “Ah, Sabine Cheng strikes again. Yes, I will discuss the details with her. It will be most stimulating, I am sure. Now I believe our time for today is over, so I am going to order lunch be set out for you and Adrien. I believe I saw Gérard walk past, so Adrien must be done with his photoshoot. Do enjoy your afternoon together.”

Marinette gathered up her things with effusive thanks and headed off to the dining room. Nathalie glanced at the design, and said, “Shall I call Sabine, sir?”

“No, I should probably do that myself. I don’t want to give her even the slightest edge.”

“Should we ask if she would be willing to represent you the next time we have to make a deal with Audrey Bourgeois, sir?”

Don’t tempt me.” He paused, “Then again, we could sell tickets.”

“She’d demand a percentage, sir.”

“Which one?”

“Yes.”

 

The Date

Adrien had been “surprised, but sure!” when she suggested the draw-from-a-hat routine. The first thing he drew was Andre’s Ice Cream Cart, but in her handwriting. “OK, if we draw mine with that on it, we toss it and draw again!” Cones in hand, they had walked along the Seine together (Gérard keeping a discreet distance), talking about her morning with his father.

“Trust me: he wouldn’t offer money for your design unless he really liked it. He’s working on the collection for next Spring, and I know he has been frustrated by it. He probably saw something he needs to complete it.”

“But then…one of my designs…would be an Agreste design?” Her voice squeaked at the end.

“If your mother doesn’t demand you get proper credit, I will.”

“Right! So, ice cream is gone…draw again?”

He pulled the papers out of his pocket and dropped them in his beret. Shaking it, he held it out for her to pick one. Closing her eyes, she drew a slip and then opened her eyes to read it. She squeaked.

“Visit a pet store and look at… hamsters?!”

“Oh, yeah, I have always wanted a hamster—had a cat once, and he was so annoying,” and one hand went to his shirt in an odd gesture, as he winced, “so I like to go look at the hamsters. Can’t get one today, but we could have fun coming up with names for them!”

“Buh…buh…”

“Bubba is a funny name for a hamster, but hey, it’s all pretend anyhow! Come on, I know just the place!”

They looked at hamsters, and talked about raising them together (which left Marinette a blushing mess, and Adrien clearly enjoying himself), and then it was time for the next draw.

Which Adrien totally rigged (he had prepared extra slips of paper), and they wound up at the movies.

Sitting together in the dark.

Rules were made to be broken.

Gérard, sitting two rows behind them, carefully saw nothing.

 

Eiffel Tower, Upper Levels, Saturday Night

This time, it was Ladybug cautiously approaching Chat Noir.

Who was holding ice cream.

Suspiciously familiar ice cream cones.

And a small gift bag sitting next to him.

“Oh, hello, My Lady! I got our favorites! Not like this, of course, as a civilian.”

“Our…favorites?”

“Mmhmm…” He handed over hers and took a big bite of his own, and then shook his head as the brain-freeze set in.

She looked at the ice cream. The exact same thing Andre had given them earlier in the day. Then she looked at the gift bag. “What’s that?”

He reached in and pulled out a small stuffed animal. “It’s a hamster! His name is Bubba!”

She shrieked. “Adrien?!”

“Yes, My Lady?”

For all the years they were together after that, he swore that getting ice cream smashed in his face was worth it .

 

Epilogue: a month later, in Gabriel’s Atelier

“Sir, another article about Adrien and Marinette in 93STYLE .”

“Nathalie, please call Sabine and ask if she would be willing to help us negotiate the sale of a magazine—Gabriel Brand really needs to expand into the media. While you do that, I am going to go akumatize someone.”

Nathalie sighed, and nodded. “Of course, sir.”

Different Week, Same Stupid Crap.

At least they had quasi-in-laws to share some of it with.