There's always been something unsettling about the chocolate factory.
Adrien isn't sure what it is about it that he finds so unnerving, other than the obvious- nobody ever enters, and nobody ever leaves. And those whispers in town about that family that opened a competing bakery five years back, before their daughter disappeared, but his father always says that rumors are rumors, and amount to nothing without evidence.
All the same, the Miraculous Chocolate Factory, wonderful though it is, holds a sense of foreboding.
It is for this reason that, when the Golden Tickets were announced, he didn't bother to participate in the worldwide hunt for them. He had all the candy he wanted (all the candy his father would allow at least) already, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know what was behind those tall, dark gates.
And it wasn't because he could still see the bright blue eyes and dark black curls as she'd run up to him, begging for help, screaming something indistinguishable, the day before she'd gone missing. It wasn't.
The first to find a ticket was plastered all over the news, a cute little girl called Manon Chamack, who's face is covered in chocolate. Her mother laughs about how they always knew that Manon would win. "She must eat more candy than the rest of her class put together!"
It's cute. Adrien knows it's cute, everyone knows it's cute, and Manon's giggle is the envy of all the children of the world.
"Adrien, the kwami, it wants Maman and Papa to-!"
The second was the mayor's daughter, Chloé. She beamed out from the television, holding the ticket proudly, her ponytail bouncing, the diamonds around her neck glittering. Her father stood behind her, proudly. "When Chloé says she has to have something, well, it's my duty as a parent to make sure she gets it!"
The story of how he spent tax dollars forcing people to open candy bars for Chloé caused quite a few late-night news reports, but she had the ticket anyway.
"Adrien, please, help me! It's the ladybugs, Adrien, they're coming for me!"
The third was a girl with dark hair down to her knees, with a big smile as she chewd a bit of bubblegum. Bridgette Dexter laughed, playing with the collar of her jacket, and tracing circles in the dirt with the toe of her shoe- a girl of habit clearly. "Normally I chew gum, but the contest made me switch to Miraculous bars instead... and I just got lucky I guess," she blushed modestly.
She seemed a sweet, if socially awkward girl, as bouncy as her gum, with a bright smile. The media loved her.
"Promise me you won't eat the candy, Adrien! Please, they'll p-put me in it!"
"Any idiot could have done it," Félix Malheur told the press, not bothering to look up from his book. "If you checked the manufacturing date, offset by the weather, and found the derivative of the serial number, you'd notice that all the 'Golden Ticket' bars were made on the same day and within fifteen digits of each other. I only had to buy one candy bar."
The reporter seemed offput. "Well... how was it?"
"Not a big chocolate fan, didn't eat it. Ask my brother if you must."
Gabriel handed his son a bar of chocolate.
Adrien looked up, confusion in his gaze. "Father, what is this?"
"A candy bar, what does it look like?"
Adrien hesitates, tracing the label on the bar. "Father, I don't usually eat these... I thought I wasn't supposed to have candy..."
"It didn't seem quite right," Gabriel shrugged. "The entire world is participating in this... game. You drive past the factory every day, and one candy bar won't kill you."
Adrien hesitates, and it isn't because of Marinette, he swears it isn't.
Of course there's a golden ticket inside.
That's how Adrien came to be standing outside the gates on this ice cold morning, glancing at the four kids around him. Chloé looks annoyed, banging on the gate. "Open up!" she snaps. "Daddy, make him open the gates!"
"Chloé sweetheart, there's a minute left-"
"I want to go in now!"
"I was going to sell it," Félix casually explains to Bridgette. "It doesn't seem like this is going to be such an incredible experience, but I got curious, and you know what they say."
"Curiosity killed the cat, you mean?" a voice chirps from the speakers.
The gates swing open, and a sudden gust of wind sends the five children stumbling in. "Parents, please step away. Your kids will be dropped off at the end of the day!" the same voice calls out. "Kids, come closer. Do you wanna see something amazing?"
"Wait a sec!" Félix cuts in. "The tickets said we should bring a guardian, we're all minors, this isn't safe."
"Do you want to leave?" There's a giggle. "We wouldn't mind. You getting a ticket in the first place was a stroke of bad luck, you shouldn't even have one."
"C'mon, Fé," Bridgette tugs at his jacket sleeve. "It's publicized, it's totally safe. What, like a candy store would hurt us? Don't you wanna explore?"
He closes his eyes, but nods. "Yeah, I'm coming."
"Oh, bad luck," the voice sighs. Adrien wonders if they just hate Félix's lack of enthusiasm, or if there's something deeper about this. Overall, he's starting to feel very uncomfortable.
Bridgette starts chewing rapidly at her gum, while Manon rushes towards the doors with reckless abandon, and Félix takes a step forward, before suddenly finding himself slipping on ice that surely wasn't there a second ago. Chloé sneers at the three, before looking up at Adrien with goo-goo eyes. "Oh, Adrien! Look how silly they are, what a shame we'll have to spend time around these pathetic creatures."
Adrien closes his eyes, walking up to the doors, that open, revealing a magnificent display of lights, and laughter, the images of the cat and ladybug shining in the air. When the lights fade, a young man and woman stand, dressed in green and red respectively, hands outstretched. "Welcome to the Miraculous Chocolate Factory!" they chorus. "We hope you'll enjoy your stay!"
Manon runs through the doors first, followed by Chloé. Bridgette laughs, helping Félix up and pulling him through the door...
"Are you coming, Adrien?" the man in green asks.
"Yeah, of course," he murmurs, following the other four quickly.
He'll regret it very soon.