Things at the Dupain-Cheng bakery usually ran like clockwork. Tom and Sabine got up long before the sun to start mixing the dough, joined by their bakery staff. Things were mixed, proofed, shaped, proofed some more, baked, cooled, decorated, and set out, all before the bakery opened at 7 at the dot. Sabine would put the finishing touches on the displays before flipping their sign to Open and taking her place behind the counter to greet the first wave of customers.
Still, the work didn't stop. The bakery wanted to keep fresh goods on the shelves all day, so Tom and his workers kept busy in the back making more batches of the breads and treats. It was a little more relaxed once the shelves were filled at the start, sure, but the bakery ran on a tight clockwork that couldn't break down.
Except sometimes things went wrong, and that meant that things behind the front room were a little crazy.
The first indication that their Saturday might not be normal came Friday night, when one of Tom's normal morning workers phoned in to let them know that they were sick. Tom groaned as he finished the call.
"I guess I'll be getting up a little earlier than usual to get started on mixing up dough a little sooner," Tom commented, frowning. "And Mari, I know you like sleeping in on the weekends, but do you think...?"
Marinette groaned but nodded. "Yeah, I can get up and help in the bakery. What time do you want me down by?"
"If you can manage six-thirty, that would be great," Sabine said after exchanging a glance with Tom. "If not, definitely by seven. And after the noon rush is over, we should have enough of a handle on things for you to leave."
Marinette groaned and buried her face in her arms.
Against all odds, Marinette appeared downstairs at six thirty-five on the dot, day-old pain au chocolate dangling between her lips. She helped her parents set everything out in the shop, and then vanished into the back kitchens to help with making the bread.
Things in the back went reasonably smoothly for the rest of the morning. Marinette helped feed the croissant dough through their roller to press the dough into layers, decorated cakes, moved things in and out of the ovens, and carried baskets and trays of finished goods into the front room.
And then the belt in one of their machines broke.
"No problem!" Tom said cheerfully when he peered into the machine to figure out why it had stopped working. "I have spares just in case this kind of thing happens. Just give me a minute, I'll go get a new one."
Marinette and Kelly, the worker that wasn't ill, nodded and went back to the things they had been working on prior to the machine breakdown. They worked away as Tom dug through his box of spare parts, and only once he let out a groan did they glance over.
"I must have used the last of that size belt up a month ago when the other machine broke," Tom said, putting the things he had removed from the box back in and pushing it back into its place under a table. He straightened up, looking apologetic. "I'm gonna have to go get a new one now. We might be able to function without this machine for a couple hours, but we have an order for an event at the Grand Paris this evening, and there's no way we can get that number of croissants done without the machine doing the rolling out. Marinette, I know I said you'd be able to leave after the lunch rush, but..."
"I can stay, papa!" Marinette assured him with a grin. "I can take over with the baguettes, I know how to do that."
"Thank you, sweetheart," Tom said, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "I'll hurry back so you can get going and go do your own things. Kelly, can you start mixing the next batches of bread going? The amounts of each kind should be on the laminated sheets in the binder."
"Of course, Mr. Dupain," Kelly said. "We've got everything under control, promise."
Tom beamed, then hurried away to hang up his apron before grabbing his bag and wallet and letting Sabine know what was going on. She groaned- they really didn't need another setback today- and then grabbed a tray of petits fours to decorate so that she could help them stay on top of the work from her place in the front of the shop.
In the back, Marinette and Kelly had buckled down to their work. They had both taken a short break for a bite to eat and some tea (caffeinated, of course, and loaded with sugar) and now were back to trying to stay on top of the timetable that Tom Dupain tried to keep to every day. Marinette was definitely glad that she had had experience helping out in the bakery before, because it would have been impossible to work as fast as she was without mistakes if it had been her first time working in the bakery environment.
They had this. Maybe some things would run a little low out front because they were a little behind schedule, but it wouldn't be that long before Tom got back. They could hold on until then.
En route to the bakery parts store, Tom was having more trouble. The bus he was on broke down partway there, and then he had to walk part of the distance before he got picked up by another bus. That bus got stuck in traffic for longer than Tom would have liked, and then he finally arrived at the store, only to have a hard time finding an employee who could help him.
"Oh, I meant to be back by now," Tom muttered, checking his phone. Sabine hadn't texted him back at all after he sent her a message to let her know that he was running behind. That could be a good thing- maybe things were going perfectly smoothly even without him there- or it could bad. Maybe things were so busy that Sabine couldn't take the time to send him a response.
He could only hope that it was the former.
At two o'clock, the bell over the bakery door chimed. Sabine sent the last customer on their way with a full bag of warm bread and then glanced up to see Alya, Nino, and Adrien all standing there at the door with their book bags, looking strangely apprehensive.
"Well hello, you three!" Sabine greeted them, smiling. "Can I get you guys something?"
"Well... kind of, I guess? Do you know where Marinette is?" Alya asked, stepping forward first. "We're supposed to have a study group at the library today, but she hasn't responded to any of the texts I sent her. We tried calling, but she isn't answering."
Sabine groaned. "Oh, boy. She must have forgotten. I do know where she is. We had a baker call in sick today, so she stepped in to replace them. She was supposed to get off after the lunch rush, but then a machine part broke and Tom had to leave to go get replacement parts." She looked absolutely harried. "He's late getting back with the parts. Apparently there was a problem with the bus over, but that means that we have two people working down there when we should have three, plus a machine is down so they have to work around that as well."
Adrien immediately looked concerned. "Oh, no! Is there any way we can help?"
Sabine beamed at him. "You're so sweet to offer! There's not much, really, but if one of you wants to watch the counter for a minute while I go and get the next round of breads, that would be great. The other two can come with me and help me carry things."
Alya immediately volunteered to do the counter, and Nino and Adrien followed Sabine back into the hallway, both looking puzzled as she led them back behind the stairs.
"The main part of the bakery is back here," Sabine explained as she pulled open the door. A wave of delicious-smelling air hit them and Adrien suddenly looked like he was in heaven. "We're going to wash our hands before we touch anything, okay?"
Nino and Adrien nodded.
"Mrs. Cheng!" an unfamiliar woman called from the middle of the room. She was in the middle of removing a tray of bread from one of the ovens lining the walls, and she looked somewhat harried. A streak of flour ran through her hair, and she was frowning. "Isn't Mr. Dupain back yet?"
"He was delayed," Sabine explained as she herded the two boys towards the sink in the corner of the room. "But he should be back soon. Boys, this is Kelly. Kelly, this is Adrien and Nino, two of Marinette's friends. They're helping me bring the next few batches up to the front."
"Great!" Kelly set the tray she was holding onto a rack and headed to the next oven as another buzzer went off. "A lot of things aren't out of the oven yet because we are running a little behind, but they should be out soon."
"I thought you did all of the baking in the mornings," Adrien commented in confusion as he and Nino thoroughly washed their hands under Sabine's supervision. "But you're still going now?"
"People like warm bread in the bakery, and we like giving it to them as fresh as possible," Sabine said as she moved loaves of bread from the trays into baskets for them to carry out. "So we bake throughout the day. It also helps us adjust amounts so that we're not left with too much product at the end of the day." She handed the first basket to Adrien and started filling another for Nino. "But after this wave is finished, then we're usually done with most of the baking for the day, unless we have specific orders for pick-up late in the day."
"Which we do have today," Kelly added in as she took the last pan out of the ovens and came over to join Sabine in removing bread from the trays. "There's a cake and macrons and croissants for a thing at the Grand Paris, and then an order of cookies and petits fours as well for another customer."
"I thought you said Marinette was working back there," Adrien said as they three of them stepped out into the hallway with their baskets of bread. "But I didn't see her."
"She was probably downstairs," Sabine said, pushing open the door to the front of the bakery with her hip. "There's one last batch of baguettes that needs to go in, so she's probably getting that ready. Kelly is a great worker, but she can't do the flour stenciling like Marinette can."
"The decorations on the bread," Sabine said, pointing to the lovely white designs curling up the sides of the bread. It looked similar to the branches on the bakery's logo, delicate and definitely artistic and it made the bread look pretty fancy. "We like adding that special touch. Marinette designed those at the same time she redesigned our logo."
"That's so cool! I didn't know you could even do that!" Nino exclaimed. "And I'm no design expert or anything, but they're, like, perfectly shaped to the bread. That's amazing."
Sabine just smiled. "Yes, it did take a bit of work for her to get the stencil just right. She'll have to show you sometime how it's done. Marinette truly has it down to an art. Even Tom's stencils aren't quite as crisp as hers are."
The three of them carefully made their way around a few customers that Alya was helping to restock the shelves. The next time, the boys made the trips on their own while Sabine started decorating the petits fours that Kelly had brought out. By the time they were done, Tom had finally returned with a large bag.
"That looks like more than just a single replacement belt," Sabine noted as Tom bent to give her a peck on the lips. "I take it you decided to just do a re-supply of the spare parts box?"
Tom grinned a bit sheepishly. "Yes, pretty much. I figured since I was there and there was a sale going on, I might as well." Shouldering his bag, he glanced around at the assembled teens. "Ah, I see we called in the cavalry to help. Were you guys looking for Marinette?"
"Well, I can show you where she is, but I might need her a few more minutes yet," Tom said, waving them through the door in front of him. "We should have things under control soon, but I still need to fix the machine that broke earlier."
They followed Tom into the large kitchen and then trailed after him as he headed down a set of stairs that Adrien and Nino hadn't spotted before. Down here, there were way more machines, all sorts of mixers and counters and other machines that they couldn't figure out purposes for. Marinette stood at a table with loaves of bread dough in front of her, carefully applying flour to one of the loaves. A second later, she peeled a stencil away from the dough, leaving a bright pattern in flour behind. She admired it for a second, then picked up the tray that the loaves were sitting on and turned towards the stairs. She immediately caught sight of the four of them standing there and her eyes went wide.
"I think you have a little get-together that you might have forgotten about, dear," Tom said cheerfully, taking the tray from her. "I'll get this in the oven and then fix the machine while you clean up here and start whipping the egg whites for the Grand Paris macron order and then you can take off, okay?"
"Of course, papa," Marinette said immediately. She beamed up at him before turning back to her workstation. Her friends watched as she cleared the counter and wiped up the stray flour in no time at all, then vanished further into the basement kitchen. A minute later, she was back with the largest carton of eggs Adrien and Nino had ever seen.
"She's really good at that," Nino commented as Marinette started separating the whites from the yolks. Her fingers flew as she cracked each egg with a single hit and then separated the different parts into different bowls. "Like, I can't barely crack an egg normally without getting shell in the bowl, and here she is just tossing the yolk and stuff back and forth like it's the easiest thing in the world."
Alya grinned. "It's practice," she told the boys. "And also not sucking at cooking."
"Yeah, yeah," Nino muttered. "And don't you laugh," he added to Adrien, who had just tried to smother a snort. "You can't cook any better than I can, can you? You've just never even tried before. Don't think I didn't notice that you didn't even try to make any macrons that one time at Chloe's party."
Adrien just shrugged. "Fair enough."
Once Marinette had finished separating a ridiculous number of eggs, she started up the mixer and started whipping them. By the time they were the right consistency, Tom had finished fixing the machine. He trotted past them to wash up upstairs, then returned downstairs to take over the macrons from his daughter.
"I think we have everything under control now," he told them with a smile. "Unless, of course, you'd like to help with dishes?"
Marinette made a face, and Tom laughed and waved her away.
"That's so cool that you can bake so well!" Adrien said as they headed back towards the stairs. "And those flour decorations! Your mom said that you designed the ones the bakery uses on everything."
Marinette blushed and nodded as they headed up. "Yeah, that was last summer's project. It took so many tries to get everything to look good, but it's good for branding if people see our designs on the treats. It helps them remember us."
Adrien blinked. "It's on more than the breads?"
"It's on the macrons too, didn't you see?" Alya pointed out. "And there's something on the petits fours as well, and maybe some other stuff. But didn't your parents do the stencils before?"
Marinette shook her head. "No, they were mostly just focusing on word of mouth by making fantastic bread. But this way, people see the design and ask where people got whatever it is that they have. We've actually seen an increase in sales since we started doing that."
Adrien couldn't help but gape. He had been impressed enough that Marinette was apparently skilled enough at baking that she could step in to replace one of her parents' workers at late notice and then help them keep mostly on track even when they were yet another worker down with Tom gone. Finding out that she had actually managed to increase her parents' sales with her designs was absolutely amazing.
"You're really an amazing help to your parents," Alya said as they exited the back part of the bakery. "I wouldn't have been able to do it without someone hovering over me telling me what to do. But now it's our turn to help you- because I'm guessing that you haven't had a chance to do any of the homework for this weekend yet, right?"
"I haven't," Marinette admitted, grinning and throwing her arms around her best friend's neck and accidentally engulfing both of them in the cloud of flour that poofed up from her clothes. "You guys are the best."
a/n: As with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and is therefore complete! As always, reviews are much appreciated! :)