Nino and Alya hurried along the sidewalk towards the Dupain-Cheng bakery early Sunday morning. As they crossed the street, Nino checked his phone again and frowned.
Adrien hadn't answered any of his messages yet. Nino had texted him the second that he had heard that Adrien's father had been arrested the previous day, and then had texted several times since, but he had gotten nothing. In fact, according to his phone, his texts hadn't even been read yet.
Surely Adrien's phone hadn't been confiscated by the police when they were collecting evidence for whatever had gotten Mr. Agreste arrested? Nino knew that his best bro wouldn't have gotten himself involved in anything illegal on purpose. Maybe Adrien had just turned his phone off and hadn't wanted to talk to anyone, but surely he knew that they would be concerned about him.
"Anything from Adrien yet?" Alya asked over her shoulder as they hurried down another block.
"Marinette hasn't responded yet, either," Alya said, glancing at her phone and narrowly avoiding walking straight into a lamppost. "She's probably still asleep. Ugh, of all the days for her to sleep in!"
"How serious do you think the charges against Mr. Agreste are?" Nino asked instead of pointing out that Marinette slept in every day that she could. He checked his phone again and refreshed the news page had had pulled up earlier with the news about Mr. Agreste getting arrested. It hadn't been updated at all yet, just a short blurb with the banner Developing Story, just like it had been since the previous afternoon. "Like, I always thought that the dude was an ass but too much of a stick in the mud to actually break the law. The most I can see him doing is maybe a little tax evasion, but would that really require arrest? I would think that there would just be, like, a court summons or something."
Alya just shrugged. "I don't know. We'll have to ask Adrien. Hopefully he'll know something. He might not, though. He might be just as in the dark as we are."
"Surely the police would tell him something," Nino objected. "He'd have to know how long his father is going to be in jail." He couldn't imagine that the police would keep something like that from Adrien. It would make his friend super-worried, and Adrien had already been off in school for the past few days, and just slightly distracted for a few weeks, though he had done his best to hide it. It wouldn't be long before Adrien's distracted behavior started affecting his grades for good.
Wait...was it possible that Adrien had suspected something was going on with his father before, and that was why he had been off before? That would have stunk, having to deal with that all on his own.
Even worse- what if Adrien had been the one to call the police on his father? Would he have even done that?
"If Marinette is still sleeping, shouldn't we just go to Adrien's house first?" Nino asked anxiously when another worried glance at his phone revealed that his messages still hadn't been read. "I don't want Adrien to think that we've abandoned him just because his dad did something shitty. We should get over to his house right away."
Alya shook her head stubbornly. "It doesn't take that long to wake Marinette up, and she'll want to be there. Besides, maybe we can get something from the bakery to bring to Adrien."
Nino grinned. "Yeah! Some croissants or pain au chocolate for my bro! He loves that stuff. Okay, but we have to hurry. I don't care if we have to drag Marinette out in her pajamas."
Alya laughed, but then stopped and scrambled for her phone as it let out a ding. She pulled it out to look at the message, and her face dropped for a moment. "Oh. Rose, not Mari- Oh! Oh, gosh!" Her eyes went wide and suddenly she shoved the phone into Nino's face. "Oh my god, Nino! Look!"
Prying the phone away from his face so he could actually see it, Nino read the message. "New Miraculous users spotted? Cool!"
"Read the rest," Alya urged.
"Near Adrien's house yesterday around the same time the police were there," Nino finished. "...uh, that is weird. And a little less cool. Do you... do you think that's related somehow?" He couldn't imagine how, really. What would the superheroes want with Mr. Agreste? "Maybe they just saw the ruckus and decided to stick their heads in to investigate."
Alya was frowning. "I'm not so sure about that. If it were just Ladybug and Chat Noir, then sure. They might be familiar enough with Adrien because of the attacks on our school to want to check in on him. But why would there be new ones joining them for that, especially when it was only the two of them for the fight right before that?" Another ding, and Alya checked her phone. "Okay, correction- one new user. Apparently it looked like a turtle and absolutely dwarfed Ladybug and Chat Noir. But my point still stands."
Nino just shrugged. Guessing was honestly probably pretty pointless. Hopefully they would be able to go to the mansion soon and would be able to hear from Adrien himself what had happened. He hoped that they would be able to get through any reporters outside the Agreste mansion, that Nathalie would actually be willing to let them in, and that Adrien would be up to seeing them, even if it was only for a little while.
"Good morning, you two," Sabine greeted them cheerily as soon as they stepped into the bakery. "You're certainly up bright and early. I don't think I've ever seen Marinette up at this time during weekends."
"She never is," Alya agreed cheerfully, hugging her. "Can we go up?"
Something like worry flickered over Sabine's face, and Nino frowned slightly. "Well... I suppose you can go up, but if they're asleep, don't wake them up, okay? The poor dear had a rough evening."
"We won't," Alya assured her, heading back past the counter. Then she paused. "Um..."
"There's a plate of croissants upstairs," Sabine told her. "Let me know if you run out."
"Are you sure we shouldn't just go over to Adrien's place right away?" Nino asked as Alya charged ahead up the stairs. "Mrs. Cheng said that Marinette had a rough evening- if she's sick or something..."
Alya turned to give him a doubtful look. "She still wouldn't want to miss this, sick or no. She's run on barely any sleep before."
"That's no fun if you're sick, though."
"Then I won't barge in yelling. If she looks really sick, I'll leave her be and we'll just make off with a few croissants." Alya led the way into the living room/kitchen section of the apartment. "You coming?"
Nino considered it. Normally, he would say no right away- walking in on his sleeping friend could be creepy if she hadn't said that she would be okay with it- but he wanted to make sure that Alya didn't wake Marinette up if she looked ill. He knew his girlfriend sometimes acted without thinking things all the way through, and Alya might let her worry about Adrien blind her to how sick Marinette was. "Okay, I guess."
Grinning, Alya led the way up to Marinette's room. Nino followed, making sure to close the trapdoor quietly behind him. Alya didn't even pause before heading up the stairs to the loft, with Nino trailing warily behind.
Maybe he should have just trusted Alya and stayed downstairs. This just felt like an invasion of Marinette's privacy.
"Oh my god."
Frowning, Nino glanced up at Alya. She looked absolutely thrilled about something. "What?"
"Come up here!" Alya hissed in the same tone of voice. She beckoned frantically. "C'mon, quickly!"
Curious, Nino headed up. He glanced down at the bed, expecting to see Marinette and a mountain of tissues and maybe some cough drop wrappers...and instead saw Marinette with Adrien snuggled up to her side, his face pressed into her shoulder and her fingers tangled in his hair.
"Well, I guess it's a good thing we didn't go to Adrien's house," Nino managed as Alya snapped a few pictures with her phone, a wide grin on her face. "And- do you think Sabine knows that he's here? Or do you think Marinette smuggled him up and then pretended that she was sick so they wouldn't disturb her?"
"Oh, Tom and Sabine probably know," Alya told him. "If they thought Marinette was sick, they would come up to check on her, not leave her alone. I bet that Adrien was over here visiting Marinette when his father was arrested, and – oh! It was probably Adrien who had a rough evening last night, and, uh- now that I think about it, we should go back downstairs and let them sleep. We'll interrogate them when they come down."
Nino nodded and led the way downstairs. Alya closed the trapdoor behind her, trotted down the stairs, and then let out a long squeal of glee. Nino clapped his hands over his ears.
"They were so cute!" Alya squealed, grabbing Nino's arms. "So cute! Do you think they're dating? I knew something was up when they started hanging out together so much!"
"Adrien's father was just arrested, Alya," Nino reminded her. "Now isn't exactly the time to go asking them about that. Not directly, at least," he added when Alya's expression dropped. "And not right away, either. There'll be time for that later."
Alya made a face, though there was still a distinct air of glee around her. "Oh, I suppose."
They settled on the couch, each snagging a warm croissant from the covered plate on the counter. Alya's attention switched back and forth between the stairs to Marinette's room and her own phone. Her fingers flew as she tried to learn more about the superhero sighting at the Agreste mansion.
"They were there for nearly ten minutes," Alya reported. "And the police arrived just before them, but didn't go in right away." She frowned as she scanned the post. "And then Chat Noir escorted them in. That's weird."
Nino frowned. A possibility was nagging at his in the back of his mind as the clues started to fall into the place, and it wasn't pretty. If it was true...
Nino didn't want to think about it too much. There was no point in jumping to conclusions.
"People weren't kidding when they said that they said that this Turtle dude was huge," Alya commented a few minutes later. She held her phone out. "Look at him! He's an absolute giant. He'll probably be able to just plow down akuma if he joins Ladybug and Chat Noir for future akuma fights, and then just sit on the akuma until Ladybug can purify the butterfly. They won't stand a chance."
Unless there weren't going to be any more akuma attacks, in which case... well, maybe the Turtle could sit on robbers and muggers or something.
Fifteen minutes and several consumed croissants later, Mr. Dupain popped into the room with a covered basket of baked treats. He smiled at the two of them as he plopped the basket down on the counter.
Nino could smell chocolate. He craned his neck, interested. He had an inkling that he would be investigating that basket as soon as Mr. Dupain headed back downstairs.
"Reading about something interesting there, Alya?" Mr. Dupain asked, peering over their shoulders. Alya grinned and nodded.
"Yeah! The superheroes were spotted out and about yesterday half an hour after the akuma attack was over, and there was a new superhero with them!" Alya told him excitedly. She waved her phone at him, but thankfully didn't shove it in Mr. Dupain's face. "And they were spotted at Adrien's place, too!"
For a moment, Nino could have sworn that he saw a flash of something- worry, maybe?- flick through Tom's eyes. But then the moment was gone and Mr. Dupain was smiling down at them again. "Oh, that's interesting. Are there, ah- are there a lot of pictures?"
Alya shook her head. "No, most people apparently hadn't paid a whole lot of attention until after Mr. Agreste was brought out by the police, and by that point the superheroes were mostly inside the house, and then they left pretty fast. There's only a few photos, and a lot of them are blurry. People haven't learned how to change up the settings on their phones and cameras to get the best superhero pics."
"Most of the stuff I've found was just blog posts and texts from a couple of our classmates," Alya told him. "It's a pity, because the new superhero looked cool, and how am I supposed to make a Ladyblog post about the new guy if there's no information about him?"
"She's doubly sore because she also missed the other new superhero a couple months ago," Nino told Mr. Dupain. "You remember, the fox that was just here for a few fights, that everyone decided must have been a foreign user that was just in town visiting? Alya was too distracted trying to take care of her sisters to get footage, and didn't see the Fox jump right over her head, and some of her followers have been annoyed at her for it."
Tom chuckled. "Well, your Ladyblog followers just have to understand that you can't be expected to cover the entire city all the time. You can't be everywhere at once."
Alya made a face and slouched. "Tell that to my followers," she muttered moodily. "I gotta find as many sources as possible so I can make some sort of post about the turtle holder. Ugh, and if only I had stayed out a bit longer after the akuma fight was over!"
"Well, I had better get back down to the bakery. I just came up to see if, ah, Marinette was up yet," Tom said, glancing upwards. He looked over at them briefly, looking a little shifty. "Uh..."
"We know Adrien is up there," Nino informed him. "They're cuddling."
"Was he over here when his father was arrested?" Alya wanted to know. Nino sat up in interest as Tom suddenly looked a little trapped.
"He- yes, he was. And- oh, I think it's time for me to get bread out of the ovens! Have some snacks, leave some for Adrien and Marinette, and, uh, see you later!"
With that, Tom was out the door in a flash. Nino was impressed that a man so large could move so fast.
"Bugger, I was going to ask if he knew anything about Adrien's father!" Alya complained. She gave the door Tom had vanished through a disgruntled look. "I would go ask Sabine, but she wouldn't want to say anything in front of the customers."
Nino frowned. "Wait, why would they know anything?"
"Unless the police who came to talk to Adrien talked to him alone and Adrien didn't share, Tom and Sabine and Marinette should all know," Alya explained. "And I can't see Adrien not telling them, just to get things off his chest."
"Would Sabrina maybe have some idea?" Nino suggested. "Her father was probably involved in the rest."
"He was the one who said that the police had no further comments," Alya said. She lit up and pressed a kiss to his cheek. "That's it! I'll text Sabina now."
Nino grinned and hopped up to investigate the basket of goodies Tom had left while Alya texted Sabrina. As he returned with a chocolate-filled pastry, Alya's phone dinged with a response. She scrambled to check it, and then her expression dropped.
"Her father is refusing to even tell her anything," Alya reported. "He said that he isn't sharing anything until there's an official announcement."
"I just don't understand why the superheroes would be involved in police business," Alya said, flopping against the seat and scrolling through her phone again. "Like, I know they sometimes get called in to help with runaway buses and struggling helicopters and whatnot, but to arrest someone?"
Nino just shrugged. He didn't want to suggest the worse-case scenario that he had thought of, just in case he was wrong. In fact, he was surprised that Alya hadn't thought of the same thing he had.
Maybe she had, but just didn't want to say it.
"Maybe they went through the Agreste mansion during the akuma attack and discovered something illegal," Alya suggested. "But...that still doesn't entirely make sense. Why not just tell the police and then have them go up to the door?"
"Who knows." Nino glanced towards the stairs again, then at his watch. He thought that Adrien at least was usually up by this time, but this wasn't exactly a normal day. Adrien might be asleep for a while yet. Even if he woke up, Adrien might not come downstairs right away if Marinette was still asleep.
They might be waiting for a bit.
It was a full hour and a half more before there was any noise from upstairs. Nino and Alya perked up, both setting aside their phones to stare expectantly at the stairs. It took another fifteen minutes before Marinette came down the stairs followed by a bleary-eyed Adrien. Oddly enough, Marinette actually seemed the more awake one out of the two. She spotted Alya and Nino on the couch first and paused. Adrien walked right into her back and only yawned.
"Nino! Alya! What are you doing here?" Marinette managed. Her voice had turned squeaky, and her cheeks tinted pink as she glanced back at Adrien. He blinked, looking vaguely more awake, and then his eyes slid over to Nino and Alya as well.
Suddenly Adrien looked much more awake.
"We came over to see you guys," Alya told her friend immediately. Then a small smirk slid onto her face. "Well, we came to see Marinette. We weren't expecting Adrien to be over here, too."
Nino noticed as Marinette tensed up slightly, one of her hands sliding back to twine with Adrien's. She glanced back at him, whispering something, and then nodded towards the bathroom door. Adrien nodded and then stepped back, turning to flee into the bathroom while Marinette turned to face them. Clearly she was planning on taking the brunt of the questioning, or maybe she was just stalling for time while Adrien prepared himself.
"We heard that Adrien's father was arrested," Alya told Marinette after the door had clicked shut. "So we were going to come over and collect you before going over to Adrien's house to see him, but then we saw that he was actually over here." She gave Marinette a little smirk, waving her phone with the pictures on it. "You two looked very comfortable cuddled up together."
Marinette turned bright red.
"Do you know what's going on?" Nino asked Marinette. "We've been trying to figure it out, but there haven't been any press releases or anything."
Marinette fidgeted. "It's not my place to say anything," she hedged.
"But you do know."
Marinette paused, then very, very slowly gave a single nod. She glanced back at the closed bathroom door, a concerned look on her face.
Clearly she wasn't going to tell them anything without Adrien's express permission. Nino didn't blame her. He would do the same in a heartbeat, even if it made Alya annoyed with him.
"Is he doing okay?" Nino asked quietly, so Adrien wouldn't be able to hear him from inside the bathroom. "He hasn't read any of my texts from yesterday or today."
"Well, we were asleep this morning," Marinette pointed out. "And we were, uh, busy yesterday. And I think Adrien might have turned his phone off after everything. I know I did." She glanced towards the bathroom door again. "And he's doing about as well as could be expected. He slept well, so there's that."
That was a good sign, or at least so Nino thought. Adrien sleeping meant that whatever his father had done couldn't be that bad, right? Adrien wouldn't sleep if he was really concerned about his father being in jail for a long time. He would stay up worrying himself sick half of the night and then only fall asleep out of exhaustion. He was probably still worried about his father- it was only natural- but whatever the problem was, it couldn't be that severe.
Alya was just as surprised. "He actually fell asleep?"
Marinette looked sheepish. "Weeeellll...we might have given him something to help a bit with that. I don't know if he would have slept very well otherwise."
...okay, so maybe it was serious, then. Nino just wanted to know already.
The bathroom door clicked open and Adrien slid back out. He looked nervous, though Nino didn't understand why. Did he think that they were going to judge him for his father being arrested?
That was not going to fly with Nino. Nuh-uh, no way.
Bouncing up (and brushing off the crumbs from the pastries he had eaten from his pants), Nino crossed the room to engulf Adrien in a giant bear hug. Alya wasn't far behind. Adrien first tensed, then melted into the hug.
"Dude, are you okay?" Nino wanted to know right away, releasing Adrien from the hug and resting his hands on Adrien's shoulders. "Like, what is going on?"
Adrien's smile was definitely on the weak side. "I'm doing okay, I guess. And..." He bit his lip, looking uneasy. Marinette reached over and twined her hand with his. Nino didn't miss the squeeze that passed between them. "And my father...he was Hawkmoth."
And just like that, Nino's worse-case-scenario was confirmed. Alya gasped, looking horrified.
Adrien just nodded.
"Adrien is staying here until the police figure out who is supposed to be taking care of him now," Marinette told them. She sent a shy look in Adrien's direction. "...or as long as he wants to stay, really. We're happy to have him here."
If it weren't for the circumstances, Nino was positive that Alya would have teased her friend about that. He would have teased Marinette about that, and then turned right around to tease his own best friend. As it was, they were a little too focused on Adrien.
"And here I was saying that it couldn't possibly be any worse than a little tax evasion," Nino said in complete disbelief. "I- just wow. Did the police have any idea what kind of sentence he might get yet?"
Adrien just shrugged.
"Did they have any useful information for you, then?" Alya wanted to know. "Or did they just tell you that your father had been arrested and why?"
"Ladybug and Chat Noir stopped by to break the news before Officer Raincomprix got here," Marinette told them. "So really all he told us was that there would be police at the school so reporters wouldn't be harassing Adrien there." She gave them a small smile. "It was good that the superheroes came by first, though. Officer Raincomprix isn't very comfortable with giving people bad news."
"And two untrained superheroes are better at that sort of thing than a police officer that's taken training and classes about that sort of thing?" Alya said incredulously.
"Officer Raincomprix must really suck at breaking news, then," Nino said immediately, because Alya was right. While Ladybug and Chat Noir were good at comforting akuma victims, he really didn't think that that sort of thing completely translated over to telling someone that their father had been a supervillain and had been arrested, especially when the superheroes themselves had been the ones doing the arresting. And dealing with the brunt of the damage and mayhem that the supervillain had caused.
Then again, that sort of thing required tact, and Nino wasn't entirely positive that that was one of Sabrina's bumbling father's strengths.
Marinette and Adrien shared an odd little look, looking strangely amused at that, and Nino had to wonder just how bad of a job Sabrina's father had done when he arrived. Or maybe the superheroes had just done a really stellar job, or maybe the turtle holder had been the one to talk and they just didn't want to mention him so that Alya wouldn't go into super-reporter-mode and start interrogating Adrien.
"We should probably eat," Marinette said before either Nino or Alya could ask any more questions. "It looks like Papa brought up some treats."
"They were warm two hours ago, but who knows about now," Nino said, stepping back to let the two of them through. "Adrien, dude, Marinette is rubbing off on you already. You never sleep this late."
He was glad to see the hints of a smile flash across Adrien's face. "Actually, Marinette woke up before I did. She was waiting for me for a while."
"I'm thinking maybe you should take less of the, uh, sleeping aid tonight," Marinette said with a bit of a rueful look. "Otherwise you'll be impossible to wake up on time for school." A pause. "Unless you just want to skip tomorrow?"
"Haven't decided yet," Adrien mumbled. He fished a croissant out of the basket of pastries and stuck it in his mouth. "I don't really want to have to field a million questions from everyone, but I don't really want to miss class, either."
Nino was 100% positive that he would fight anyone who pestered Adrien. He was pretty certain that most people in their class would back off if told that Adrien didn't want to talk about it- and he could probably rope Ivan and Kim into helping him keep the other students at school away from Adrien without too much effort, too. Chloe would probably be more difficult, if the fact that she had started spamming his phone with texts (presumably after not having gotten any response from texting Adrien) half an hour ago was any indication.
Literally everyone else in the class had just sent him one or two texts asking if he knew anything, but of course Chloe thought that sending thirty texts would make him respond faster. Nino was tempted to put off answering her for even longer, just to be a little petty.
"We can deal with people," Nino promised Adrien. "And if you want us to meet you guys here tomorrow morning so we can all walk together, we can do that. Just say the word."
That got a proper smile out of Adrien.
While Adrien and Marinette ate breakfast, Nino quickly texted their classmates (minus Chloe, of course, and Sabrina, who hadn't texted him at all and who would just run to Chloe with any news), telling them that Adrien wasn't ready to share with the rest of the class yet and asking that they just treat Adrien like normal.
Hopefully they would listen. Adrien looked like he needed a little normal right about now.
As he joined back into the conversation, Nino couldn't help but wonder what Adrien's life was going to look like from here on out. With his mother missing and his father in jail, was he going to be carted off to live with some relative somewhere else in the country? Was he going to stay in Paris, under the watch of his father's secretary? Was Nathalie even going to be able to take care of Adrien? If she had known about Mr. Agreste's supervillain tendencies, she might get jail time as well. What about the Gorilla? Would any of Adrien's former caretakers be free to take care of Adrien so that he wouldn't have to leave the city?
Frowning, Nino shook off the depressing thought. Hopefully the police would take Adrien's wishes into consideration and let him stay in the city with his friends. He had support here, friends and teachers and, well, whatever Marinette was (Girlfriend? Future girlfriend? Cuddle buddy?). Adrien probably wouldn't be allowed to stay at the Dupain-Cheng house long-term (since he was sharing both a room and a bed with Marinette currently), but surely he wouldn't be pulled away from them permanently.
Adrien had already been through so much in the past year. Hopefully the next few months would be calmer and he would be able to recover from everything that had happened.
Because Nino knew that more than anything, his best friend deserved some stability. He deserved guardians that cared for him, he deserved supportive friends that he could hang out with, and most of all, he deserved freedom to enjoy himself like a normal teenager.
Hopefully Adrien would get that soon.