Thank you so much to everyone who read this story. It means so much to me. I had a lot of fun writing this and I thought after this, I might take a break for a little bit. But then the Origins episodes happened, not to mention the Jackady episode, so perhaps I won't be gone for too long. There is still so much more to write about. :)
The bell hanging above the bakery door jingled as a customer walked in. She was a tall, elegant woman with chocolate colored hair. The woman smiled as her eyes met with Marinette's who was working at the register. Her parents had run out for a bit and needed someone to be in charge. Marinette was always happy to help out around the bakery.
"Hello, Marinette," the woman smiled, taking out her pocketbook. "You look lovely this morning. It was just your birthday, wasn't it? How old did you turn?"
"Twenty-three," Marinette laughed. "I feel like I'm getting old already." Marinette had started to let her hair grow out. Right now, she had it up in a bun so her hair wouldn't get into her face while working. It gave her a more professional aura though Marinette was anything but. Despite technically being an adult, she still retained many child-like qualities which Alya teased her about constantly.
"Nonsense," the woman teased. "You still have a long time especially with a cute face like that. Anyways, I'd like a dozen of your mother's chocolate chip cookies. It's a surprise for my son when he comes home from school!"
"I'm sure he'll love them." Marinette picked out a dozen cookies and put them into a white paper bag for the woman. She tied it with a pink ribbon and handed them off. The woman paid for the cookies and then left, waving to Marinette as she walked through the door. Marinette waved until the customer was gone.
It was fun to talk to customers. Though she couldn't ever remember their names, somehow they always knew hers. Marinette could get into long conversations with them and she sometimes even held up the line. She could certainly be a social butterfly.
"Did you check the news?" A woman eating at a nearby table asked their companion. The bakery had been slightly expanded to include a sitting area so customers would have a place to snack and relax. The man she was sitting with nodded and said, "I just did. Looks like Ladybug and Chat Noir saved the day again."
"Isn't Chat Noir so dreamy?" The woman swooned. "He has to be a model or something with looks like that. He's absolutely perfect!" Her partner frowned and mumbled something under his breath. "How am I supposed to compete with that?" He muttered.
The woman laughed and stood up. She pulled her companion out of his chair and through the door, thanking Marinette on the way. Marinette giggled after overhearing their conversation. She and Chat Noir always seemed to be in the news nowadays. If you walked by a random stranger, there was a good chance they were talking about Ladybug or Chat Noir. They were the city's hottest topic and had been for a few years now. People were still on the hunt for their true identities, but no one seemed to be getting any closer. Marinette hoped to keep it that way.
The bakery bell rang again as Alya came sprinting into the bakery. "Marinette! Marienette!" Alya cried as she raced to the counter. She almost toppled over the entire thing, but Marinette caught her. Alya returned to her feet and rummaged around excitingly through her purse for her cellphone. Marinette noticed Nino waltz into the bakery, looking a bit exhausted. It was hard to match Alya's energy. He had probably been dragged along despite his objections.
"Did you check out my newest blog post?" Alya asked. She pulled up her blog's main webpage where there was a giant photo of Ladybug. "I think I'm close to discovering Ladybug's true identity!"
"Isn't that what you said last time?" Marinete asked with a raised eyebrow. "She did," Nino interjected with a raised hand. "And the time before that. And the time before that too."
"It's for real this time," Alya pouted. "Look at this pic." Alya zoomed in on a photo of Ladybug eating a chocolate chip cookie. Marinette didn't know where or how Alya had gotten a picture like that, but she rolled with it. "Wow, Alya!" Marinette said sarcastically. "Ladybug likes cookies? That really narrows it down."
"I'm not finished. I recognize those cookies. They clearly come from this bakery!" Alya slammed her fist down on the counter in triumph. Nino rolled his eyes and put his hand on Alya's shoulder. "That's why we came," he sighed. "She wanted to know if anyone who looked like Ladybug had come by recently."
"Can't say I've seen anyone like that," Marinette apologized. "But maybe she'll come by again. I'll keep an eye out," she winked. She was impressed that Alya had been able to track her location based on a cookie. Those were some super sleuth skills worthy of the great Sherlock Holmes.
"You're the best, Mari!" Alya smiled. She reached across the counter and hugged her friend. Nino smiled at the display of friendship. No matter what age, those two girls never stopped being adorable.
"So what's the haps, Marinette?" Nino asked. "Alya and I haven't seen you in a while. You've been so busy."
"Well, I was going to keep this a secret for a little bit longer, but I think I can spill the beans just for you two."
Alya and Nino looked at her suspiciously. "My newest design will be premiering at Gabriel Agreste's next fashion show!" Marinette squealed proudly. Alya began to scream in joy as well causing Nino to cover his ears.
"Way to go!" Alya congratulated. "That's like your dream and it's finally coming true!"
"Finally," Marinette smiled. "I feel like I'm the last one. Everyone else has already gone out and done so much. I mean, look at you and Nino. You're one of the head journalists of the newspaper and Nino's already got a record label. That's seriously insane!"
"I guess you're right..." Alya said, thinking to herself. "Speaking of everyone, what have they all been up to?"
"Isn't Max still attending that crazy prestigious technology school?" Marinette said. "And Nathanael has that art exhibit coming up which we'll have to get tickets for soon. Kim and Alix are dating now and I think both qualified for some big sports event downtown."
"Last I heard, Ivan and Mylene moved out to the countryside," Nino added. "Ivan said it was good for Mylene's nerves or something. It's supposed to be super chill out there."
"And I just got a call from Rose the other day," Alya said. "She and Juleka bought an apartment together just around the corner actually and are doing super great."
"What about the devious duo?" Nino asked with a raised eyebrow. Marinette laughed and said, "Well, Sabrina got a job as the assistant of the mayor, so she's done pretty well for herself. She and Chloe are still friends, but I think she's learned what true friendship really is. It definitely took her long enough."
"What about Chloe?" Alya asked. She pretended to gag and the entire group broke into giggles. Then, the bakery phone began to ring and Marinette quickly picked it up off the wall. "Hello?" She said in a sweet tone. "This is the Tom and Sabine Boulangerie Patisserie, can I help you?"
"It's me," the voice on the other end said. "Will those cupcakes be ready for my party tomorrow?"
"Yes, Chloe," Marinette laughed. "They're almost done, promise. You wanted them to be canary yellow, right?"
"You got it. Thanks Marinette. You're a lifesaver."
"Anytime. Take care."
Marinette hung up the phone and Alya asked who that was. "Just Chloe," Marinette said. "She wanted to check up on her order for tomorrow. She's a little stressed and wanted to make sure everything was perfect. I know the feeling."
"That was Chloe?" Nino exclaimed. "But she sounded so nice. Is this some kind of prank?"
"Chloe's started to come around," Marinette smiled. "Since her father's term ended, she's kind of gotten a harsh dose of reality, but it's good for her. She's actually tolerable now. We've eaten had coffee together on a few occasions."
"I won't believe it 'till I see it," Alya replied cautiously. "That girl was way screwed up during middle school. I'm still not over that almost getting expelled thing."
Marinette noticed Nino looking around the bakery. "Looking for something?" Marinette asked. "We've gotten every kind of fresh baked bun or sweet treat you could ever want. Take your pick. It's on the house." Marinette gestured at the display case of goodies, receiving a hungry glance from Alya.
"Actually, I was wondering where the lucky man is hiding," Nino confessed. "Where is my best bro? I need to congratulate him."
"I'm right here, Nino. Gimme a sec," a deep voice came from the stairwell. Adrien came walking down the stairs, carrying a giant box. He was taller now, but had the same handsome face. His hair had grown out slightly more and there was more muscle on his bones. Adrien sat the box down and turned to Marinette.
"Is it okay if I leave this here?"
"Sure thing," Marinette smiled. "I'll get to it once my parents get back." Adrien grinned and walked over to the chatting friends. He gave Marinette a kiss on the cheek and then gave Nino a fist bump. "Good to see you, man!" Adrien said. "It's been too long."
"It's been less than a week," Alya rolled her eyes. "Exactly," Nino laughed. "Way too long for bros. Now show me those rings." Marinette and Adrien held out their hands so Alya and Nino could admire the engagement rings on their fingers. Both rings were silver and had tiny engravings on the inside that only Marinette and Adrien knew about.
"They're beautiful!" Alya said in awe. "I wish Nino would man up and propose like you Adrien. I'm getting tired of waiting."
"I told you I'm working on it," Nino grumbled. "So when's the big day?"
"Sometime next spring," Marinette answered. "Everyone is invited. Even Adrien's mom is coming. It's going to be so much fun! I'm so excited!"
"You two are so cute," Alya giggled. "I remember when you could hardly get out a word when Adrien was within 10 feet and now look how far you've come. I'm so proud!" Marinette blushed at remembering how clumsy and awkward she had been in front of Adrien while in middle school. She was still that way sometimes, but both she and Adrien laughed it off. He said it was one of her "endearing qualities".
"If you think that's bad," Adrien smiled, feeling a bit nostalgic. "I had a crush on her for months before saying anything. Talk about embarrassing."
Nino and Alya's eyes both widened. "You did?" Nino asked with a look of suprise. "You must have pretty good at hiding it dude. I swear you had a crush on Lad-"
"Ah, that's enough about the past," Marinette said quickly, cutting Nino off. "Anyways, you two should get going. Alya, didn't you say you had that report to finish before midnight when you texted earlier?"
"I totally forgot! Thanks Mari. C'mon Nino, let's go."
Marinette handed Nino a small bag of fresh croissants and smiled. Nino shrugged as he followed an anxious Alya out of the bakery. Adrien and Marinette laughed as their friends left in a panic. Somethings never changed.
"Aren't we also busy tonight, my lady?" Adrien grinned devilishly. He ran his hand through his hair, making it a bit messier. Despite growing up, he never lost his flirtatious nature. Plagg came flying out from Adrien's shirt with an annoyed expression. "Can we quit it with the sly comments?" He moaned. "She's already your fiancee. Stop trying so hard. Sheesh."
"Plagg, cut it out," Tikki retorted, appearing from Marinette's purse. It was the same purse Marinette had been using since the beginning. Tikki considered it a second home. "They're cute. Leave them alone," Tikki explained. "You're just jealous."
"Okay, let's calm down," Marinette giggled. She stroked Tikki on the head and gave her a wink. Marinette secretly thought that Plagg was jealous. She noticed all those sneaky glances at Tikki over the years. It was up to Plagg to have the guts to say something. Maybe if Marinette bribed him with cheese, he would be more inclined to confess his feelings.
Marinette turned back to Adrien and said, "I do believe we made plans for tonight, kitty." She smiled when all of a sudden there was a loud noise from outside the bakery. Marinette walked over to the window and looked out with a frown. "Again with this guy?" She groaned. "If I were him, I'd have given up by now, but he just keeps coming back for more. Maybe he just really likes getting his butt kicked?"
"It looks like we'll have to reschedule those plans for tonight," Adrien sighed. He had put a lot of thought into the dinner he planned for his special princess. They were going to a fancy restaurant and we supposed to meet up with his parents afterwards, but that would have to wait. That was one of the downsides of being a superhero. Villains didn't try to work around your schedule. They kind of did whatever they wanted when they wanted.
Tikki came flying out of Marinette's purse and sat on her shoulder. "Shall we get going then?" The tiny creature asked. Plagg pouted and crossed his arms. "Fine. But I expect a lot of cheese when we get back."
"Tikki, spots on!"
"Plagg, claws out!"