"Do you ever wish you could tell someone that you're a superhero, just to get them to shut up?"
Chat Noir tried not to snort as he considered Ladybug's question. As... concerningly worded as it was, he couldn't deny that he understood just what she meant. His mind flashed back to all of the detention slips he had gotten for missing classes back in school, to Nathalie scolding him for "running off" again, to his various instructors scolding him for missing lessons or skipping out partway through, to photographers complaining about a perceived lack of work ethic because he went missing during one shoot or another, to his father's lectures whenever Adrien missed or was late to some event where he was supposed to be representing Gabriel because an akuma attacked. "Yeah, sometimes. Why?"
Ladybug slumped against the chimney as they took a break from their patrol. "I lost my job this morning. I missed one team meeting too many and they said that was enough. And I had only been there for a month."
Chat Noir cringed. He couldn't imagine only working somewhere for a month. As Adrien, he had been employed at Gabriel for years. "Maybe somewhere else will be willing to overlook that? All you can really do is keep applying to stuff."
Ladybug threw her hands up. "I can't just apply to another job! I've been blacklisted from the industry! It doesn't matter how good I am at my job if I have to skip out for twenty minutes to several hours practically every day because of a stupid akuma attack. I've made up the hours every time, at least as much as I can, so it's not like I'm skimping out on work, but..." She sighed, looking utterly defeated. "It doesn't seem to matter. Every single last one of my internships and jobs has ended the same."
"Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration," Chat Noir pointed out reasonably- or at least so he figured. He had seen people blacklisted before when they offended his father, and it was usually over something bigger than missing out on a bit of work. "Blacklisted? C'mon, Bug-"
"It is not!" Ladybug snapped. He glanced over, and was startled to see her on the edge of tears. "It's true! Not one, not two, but three companies that I had been applying to whenever an opening came up emailed me back and told me not to bother wasting my time applying ever again, because they had heard about me and my supposed skipping out already and they would never be interested in an employee who did that. And I have no good references, because I keep getting fired. And then today one of the few references I did have- one of my teachers from school- she emailed me and told me that she didn't want to be a reference anymore, since I clearly wasn't the reliable worker she had thought."
Chat Noir's heart panged for her. That had to sting, especially since he knew how hard Ladybug worked, both as a superhero and as a civilian. He wanted to help, but he wasn't sure how. They didn't know each other as civilians, after all. "Are- are you going to be okay? Y'know, for rent and stuff?"
Ladybug huffed out a frustrated half-laugh. "I still live with my parents because I can't keep a job, so I'll still have a roof over my head unless they get really mad and decide that me having to live on my own might make me more reliable. They've been getting frustrated whenever I come home and report that once again, I haven't even made it a month."
"So what are you gonna do? Not tell them?"
"Maybe. I don't know how I would hide it, though." Ladybug sighed again, slumping. "That's what I did after my first couple internships fell through. I would just go over to my friend's house and design and sew over there during the day until the actual end date to the internship had arrived. But jobs aren't supposed to have end dates, and my friend... well, she was starting to ask too many questions about why I lost the internships. And I don't have anywhere else to do my work."
"Could you do commissions full-time?" Chat Noir asked. He knew Ladybug was in fashion- she had let it slip once, and since then had been much more open about mentioning it- and he wished that he could get her a job at his father's company, but he knew all too well that going missing during the workday wouldn't be tolerated. The only way that he got away with it was because he didn't have to be in the office every day to model and because he was the boss's son. He also knew that even after Hawkmoth was defeated and Ladybug could work the full day through, a designer with a reputation like that wouldn't be looked at twice. "I mean, you would have to work from home, but it would be better than sitting around. You could claim that working for someone else stifles your creative freedom or something like that."
That got him a dubious look. "I could try. I've done commissions and sold things online on the side, but there's never enough work for me to be able to be earning proper wages- you know, enough to rent an apartment or afford enough food for my kwami and I to eat- so I would have to rely on my parents still. It's better than nothing, but..."
"It would build your portfolio," Chat Noir pointed out.
Ladybug snorted miserably. "And what's the point of that if no one will hire me? The only way having a portfolio would be useful is if I move somewhere else after Hawkmoth is dealt with and my reputation doesn't follow me. And I'm not going to be able to afford buying materials to get an online store started, not if this continues. What am I supposed to do?"
"Marry rich?" Chat Noir half-joked, hoping to lighten the mood a bit. Ladybug just groaned.
"Right, and how am I supposed to date anyone while Hawkmoth is still active? I'd have to run off in the middle of dates, just like I do with jobs. And if I did have a job, then I'd have to cancel any dates that weren't interrupted so I could get caught up with work, at least until I get fired again." Ladybug looked even closer to tears. "And it would just be one more person who would be on my back about why can't you keep a job, why are you so irresponsible, I thought we raised you better that this!"
Chat Noir could only pull his partner into his lap as she dissolved into frustrated tears.
Something had to give. And soon.
It was a Saturday morning in early July when things finally went off script.
Normally when they fought an akuma, Ladybug would use her Lucky Charm and Chat Noir would use his Cataclysm. Sometimes one wouldn't need to use their power, sometimes they would need to recharge and use their power twice or even more.
Never had they been able to both go without using their powers. The akuma hadn't been difficult- or, rather, it had had powers that they had seen before and knew how to defeat. That meant a short fight as well.
Which meant that they could follow the akuma back to Hawkmoth by not purifying it and staying on its trail until it made to go into a very familiar house. Ladybug snagged it and, with an exchanged glance and nod, they crashed through the window and into Hawkmoth's lair.
His father's lair, but that was a problem for later.
To say that Hawkmoth had not been expecting them was an understatement. They caught him partway through a monologue (a punny monologue, even, which only served to annoy Chat Noir- why couldn't his father be punny around him?) and then he was scrambling to escape the flying shards of glass as they rained down on him. Off-guard and out-of-shape, it didn't take long for them to take him down and remove his Miraculous.
They were left with a sulking Gabriel Agreste and a mansion with a gaping hole in the roof. The police had come over to investigate, so it was easy to frog-march the former supervillain down and into custody.
"We should probably do a walk-through of the mansion, to collect any further evidence and make sure there aren't any more magical artifacts," the chief of police told Ladybug and Chat Noir. His eyes kept flicking uncomfortably to Nooroo, perched on Ladybug's shoulder. Clearly the sight of the little god wasn't something he was used to, nor something that he wanted to be used to. "And it would likely be a good idea for you to come with us, if you can spare the time."
"I think we'll both need to recharge," Ladybug started as Chat Noir checked the time on his baton. Her earrings were beeping their three-minute warning. "Um, so if you could wait-"
"I have to go, I'm sorry," Chat Noir interrupted. He pointed at the time displayed on his baton's screen. It was possible that his photoshoot would be canceled once the news about his father's arrest hit, but given the work ethic at Gabriel, Adrien wouldn't be surprised if everything just kept going, arrested CEO be darned. "For my job. I can stay for a couple more minutes and give any testimony you need while Ladybug recharges, since I used my power later on, but I'm going to be running late."
The chief of police frowned. "Are you sure you can't miss it, just this once? This is quite important."
That got a laugh out of both superheroes. "Unfurtunately, it wouldn't have been just the once," Chat Noir said ruefully. "I've been late or missed things hundreds of times, probably. Akumas never waited for meetings to be over, after all."
"Or for the workday to be done, period," Ladybug commented. "I can stay and do the walk-through. I'll recharge, then be right back. Chat Noir, I'll message you later about meeting up again? And if you have to go before I get back, go. Then at least one of us will get through this whole thing with job still intact."
Chat Noir nodded, and Ladybug zipped off. He turned back to the officer, working to keep a professional face.
He had never thought that being practically estranged from his father would ever be a positive, but there was a first time for everything, he supposed.
The scandal of his father's arrest rocked the fashion world. Everyone at Gabriel worked overtime as they held meeting after meeting to try to recover from the negative attention. Designers pulled the last of Mr. Agreste's designs from production and publicity assured the public that they would be supporting ordinary, non-criminal designers with their purchases. Mid-week, a decision was made to change the company name and logo so they could start over with a clean reputation, though what they were going to change it to was yet to be decided.
Unfortunately, Adrien couldn't do the same with his own last name. He was facing even more scrutiny than the company, with police officers interviewing him whenever he wasn't needed in company meetings, cross-checking his story with each other. They went through his emails, his files, his computer, everything, trying to see if he had known what his father was doing. Adrien put up with it with a straight expression, wishing more than he had ever wished before that he could just tell them that he was Chat Noir.
That surely would get them to stop investigating him. But he couldn't tell them, so he had to suffer through their fine-comb snooping.
It was only after a full two weeks of interviews and going through his things that they declared him cleared, though they still left him with a warning that they would be keeping an eye on him in case any more magically-fueled crime popped up again.
That intense, round-the-clock scrutiny meant that it wasn't until after the police finally finished with Adrien that Ladybug and Chat Noir could meet up again. Ladybug seemed delighted when Chat Noir called her up on his baton and told her that he could finally get out again and could see her Saturday evening. The sight of his partner on his baton screen reminded Adrien that not all of the problems Hawkmoth had caused could be cured by sparkly little ladybugs.
His partner's employment history was still a complete and utter mess, by no fault of her own. He didn't know what her design aesthetic was or if she would fit in at the soon-to-be-renamed Gabriel, but maybe she could at least intern there for a bit to get some proper references again.
Once night fell on Saturday, Adrien transformed and Chat Noir dashed out of his apartment through the balcony and off into the night. He and Ladybug were going to meet on top of Notre Dame, and they had established during their call that they were going to share their identities with each other. He was a little anxious about it- after all, he was Hawkmoth's son and yet hadn't known- but mostly excited. Surely Ladybug wouldn't blame him for his father's actions.
"Hey, you're out again!" Ladybug called as Chat Noir touched down on top of the old church. "Someone's been busy. Work keeping you occupied?"
"Something like that," Chat Noir said wryly, thinking back to the week of meetings and interrogations and photoshoots shoved in between everything else, plus talks with Nathalie and sometimes the rest of the company board about what was going to happen with the company with his father's arrest. "Life's been mad. And you?"
Ladybug let out an exasperated huff. "Job applications again, since I lost my last job three days before we took Hawkmoth down. I haven't gotten a single nibble. My parents are getting annoyed, I think, since I keep losing all my jobs and they see it as just my fault. And I can do better now, but I just need to get someone to give me another chance first. Without me telling anyone besides you about me being Ladybug, Tikki said." She made another face. "You're lucky your job didn't mind about you being late and missing things. At least one of us can hold down a job."
Chat Noir winced as he stepped closer to hug her. He had only kept his job by virtue of being the owner's son- Hawkmoth's son. Now that his father was gone, Adrien was under extra scrunity, which meant that he wouldn't be able to get away with missed work now. "It'll change, Bug. Now that Hawkmoth is gone, you won't miss work, and you can fix your reputation."
"It's too late. I'll spend my entire career working my way up from the very bottom. From below the very bottom, even. I doubt I'll ever shake off my reputation fully. None of the big design houses will ever touch me." Ladybug looked defeated. "And that's what I wanted, more than anything else. But I'm just going to end up another designer with an online store and a soul-draining daytime job, I know it. But enough depressing stuff, eh?" she said, cutting herself off. "Do you wanna do the reveal now, or after our celebration cake?"
Chat Noir glanced past Ladybug to see a low table set up with a lovely cake on top. A bottle of wine and two glasses set next to it. "Oh, that looks tasty. But- reveal first, I think. Otherwise I'll be too nervous to enjoy anything."
Ladybug nodded. She guided him further out of sight of the ground below before stopping. "So, on three?"
"On three," Chat Noir agreed. "One..."
Twin flashes of light lit up the roof. Once he had blinked the spots out of his vision (he should have closed his eyes all the way, apparently), Adrien focused on a very familiar face in front of him. A grin split his face.
Well. That answered his question about why his civilian friend Marinette had had such a hard time keeping a job. It also made him feel a lot better- he had hated having connections to fashion yet not being fully willing to help out, because he hadn't known why Marinette had kept missing work (and thankfully she had never asked him if he could use those connections). But now- now he knew. It wasn't Marinette's fault that she had been missing work at all.
Now he could try to do something.
"Well, I do remember once saying something about how you could marry someone rich or someone with connections," Adrien managed to joke. He spread his arms with a crooked grin. "I have both, in case you're interested."
Marinette was still gaping. Deciding that maybe now wasn't a great time to tease, Adrien let his impish grin slid back into something softer. He stepped forward to rest a hand on his partner's shoulder. "Marinette?"
"We arrested your father," Marinette managed after a few more seconds of silence. "Oh my god. Adrien-"
Adrien shrugged. "He had it coming. I'm more bothered by how much the police investigated me. They didn't seem to be willing to believe that I might be innocent. Every time they finished going through something, they decided to seize something else to dig through." He let out a huff. "They've gone through all of my work files, my phone, my email, my work computer, my home computer, a couple journals I have..." Adrien threw his hands up in the air. "They finally decided I'm innocent and didn't need a police escort all the time. Which is good, because there was no way I could transform like that. It was hard to get my work done, too." He cringed and glanced over at Marinette. "Which isn't the worst problem in the world, I guess."
Marinette blinked at him. "Huh?"
"I mean, at least I have a job. I shouldn't be complaining about it." Adrien winced. "Even if it does involve a lot of paperwork and meetings with old dudes."
"I'm surprised your father didn't get after you for being late for things," Marinette commented as they sat down next to the table. Her kwami- Adrien needed to ask about its name, really, and introduce Plagg, but that could wait- floated after, settling down with a cookie that had been half-hidden behind the cake. "He seems the type to be hypocritical like that."
"Oh, he got after me all right." Adrien made a face remembering it. "But I just didn't tell anyone about it, since, well- like with you, no one would understand. And then after a point, people stop being understanding and go 'well why were you late again? That's your own fault for getting in trouble.'"
"And it's understandable if you think about it, without knowing all of the information, but it's just like-" Marinette waved her hands. "'I'm saving the city! I'm defeating supervillains! Doesn't that deserve some leniency?'" She sighed. "But of course I can't say that."
Adrien watched as Marinette cut into the cake, serving up two generous slices. Even as she tried to put on a cheerful face, he could tell that she was frustrated. She was easily one of the most talented young designers he had met and any design house should be grabbing her up. In fact, Adrien could remember the days right after she graduated university when she was getting picked up almost immediately by design houses.
That hadn't lasted for long. She had never gotten a job at Gabriel, though, which hopefully would work in her favor.
"I have a few more places I can apply to, I think," Marinette said after he had handed Adrien his slice. "I doubt they'll be any different, but it wouldn't hurt to try."
"If you can send me a copy of your portfolio, I'll bring it with me to work and talk to the top hiring people myself," Adrien told her eagerly, spotting his opening. "Even if we haven't advertised it yet, we will have an opening on our design team. One of the senior designers will get moved up to head to fill my dad's old position, and a junior designer promoted to fill their spot. Just let me pull some strings for you."
"Are you sure you can make them do that? Adrien-"
"You deserve it," Adrien assured her, pleased that he could do something to help his Lady, to make up for the damage that his father had caused to her career. "Just give me a few days, Bugaboo. I'm sure I can get them to listen."
Adrien gaped at the woman. "But she's an amazing designer! I've seen her portfolio- she would fit in really well here, while adding a fresh perspective and new ideas to the team. If we took her, even for a trial run-"
"Miss Dupain-Cheng has been known as an inconsistent worker with a tendency to go missing during the day. Our team cannot be distracted by such problems, no matter how talented of a designer she may or may not be." Madam Melanie glared at him, enough to make Adrien shrink back the tiniest bit. Superhero or no, she was not the kind of person he wanted to cross. "No matter his other faults, your father did not allow those in this company to grant favors to their friends and family. We are not about to start granting exceptions to you."
"She's been working on getting better!" Adrien protested, utterly frustrated. What good were his connections if he couldn't make any use out of them? And he knew that Marinette would be better now about not missing work- now that Hawkmoth was defeated, there would be no more akumas to disrupt her day. All she needed was a chance.
Madam Melanie snorted. "Rumor has it that Miss Dupain-Cheng was fired from her last job in under three weeks. I don't think that counts as getting better."
Adrien tried not to scowl. He knew, just like Marinette did, that to an outside, the constant tardies and being missing would look bad. But here he was, providing a character reference as the son of the company founder, and- nothing.
Fine. Fine. There were other design teams that he could talk to. Maybe he going behind Madam Melanie's back, but in his eyes she seemed rather harsh. She hadn't even glanced at Marinette's portfolio.
For the rest of the day, Adrien tried to talk to the team leads for all of the different Gabriel design departments whenever he had a few minutes to spare. A few looked moderately interested when he strategically flashed the portfolio at them, but then they all ended up shaking their heads and deferring to Madam Melanie's decision. A few cut him off before he could even start his spiel about why they should at least consider Marinette, shaking their heads and pointing him out of the room.
"Effing spoiled kid," Adrien heard Mr. Gumbolt grumble as he left the Men's Formalwear design team room. "Old daddy-o is gone and now he thinks he can just stick his friends on us willy-nilly. I should petition to get him removed, I should. If the police don't remove him first, that is. Put him in jail with his father, they should."
Adrien scowled and resisted the urge to send Plagg after the old designer. He had once saved Mr. Gumbolt from an akuma. Clearly he should have just let the man fend for himself.
What was worse was the designers who pretended to hear him out and then immediately turned on him once he was out of the room and presumably out of earshot, if it hadn't been for the enhanced hearing he had gotten since becoming Chat Noir. Adrien cringed his way through talk after talk, trying not to react when he heard the designers expressing the same sentiments behind his back every time.
He just had his job because of his father. He was trying to take advantage of his position to shove in an unqualified friend. He should be in jail, just like his father.
He would be in jail before too much longer.
Their comments about Marinette and about how he was likely was guilty as his father annoyed him the most. Marinette was incredibly qualified, thank you very much, and the thought that he was going to be in jail beside his father was really offensive, considering that he was one of the people to arrest the man.
Adrien still had a scowl on his face when he arrived at the Dupain-Cheng bakery that evening. He managed to force a cheery expression while passing Marinette's parents on his way upstairs, but it didn't last for long.
He had failed his Lady and his best friend. What kind of a partner was he if he couldn't even fix the damage done by his own father?
Marinette didn't even look surprised by his expression when he appeared at her trapdoor. "No luck?"
"None. I'm sorry, Marinette. I talked to all of the designer teams and they wouldn't even hear me out." He let out a frustrated breath. "I think a lot of them don't consider me fully free of suspicion yet, so they aren't about to listen to me. And all I did before was model and do a bit of paperwork." Adrien shook his head thinking of it. Some of the board members had gone so far to suggest that maybe the Agreste family should be entirely removed from the company, Adrien off the board and gone as a model and his family's stocks sold to sever their last remaining connection to the company. Thankfully there were a few members of the board that thought that was an awful idea and uncalled for, at least for the time being.
"It's fine. I'm touched that you reached out for me. Gabriel was one of the companies that told me not to even bother applying, so I can't say that I'm surprised." Marinette sunk back down on her chaise, pulling him down next to her. "I'll just keep on applying, I guess. I applied to a few things out of the city today, so maybe I'll get a nibble there."
Adrien's stomach twisted. He didn't want Marinette to leave, not when he had just learned that she was also his Lady. He had kind of hoped- dreamed, wished, ached- for the possibility that she might be interested in dating him, which would be impossible if she were out of the city while he was tied to his family's business in Paris. He fought to keep his voice even. "What kind of things have you applied to? Any design houses I might have heard of?"
Marinette made a sad little snort. "Hardly. I've applied to positions as a seamstress in tailoring and alteration places. It's not design, but it's sewing, and it's somewhere to start, at least."
Adrien stared at her, utterly dismayed. Sure, Marinette was good at sewing, but design was where her real passion was. He had been friends with Marinette long enough to know that. After a moment, though, a thought occurred to him and his dismay ebbed back a bit.
If Marinette were willing to take a non-design job for the time being, that meant that he didn't have to limit his queries to just design teams. He was on good terms with Mrs. Leroy, who was head of the sewing and alterations team, and with Mr. Lambert, from the photoshoot department. Either one would at least get Marinette a job in Paris and a foot back in the fashion world door. She could repair her attendance record, enough that she could be considered for design positions, and she would be able to make her own connections at Gabriel.
First thing the next morning, Adrien trotted down to the sewing room to talk to Mrs. Leroy.
"I've heard that you're looking for a position for a friend of yours," Mrs. Leroy said before Adrien could even open his mouth. "Adrien-"
"She had a, ah, personal issue that was keeping her from having a great attendance record before," Adrien pleaded quietly so that none of the sewers working nearby would overhear him, hoping that Mrs. Leroy wouldn't ask too many questions about the 'personal problem', because he wouldn't know what to say. "And she has gotten that solved just recently. But it's completely trashed her employment record. She just needs one more chance." He clasped his hands together and gave her his best kitten eyes. "I swear she'd be a good employee. I wouldn't have come and asked you if I didn't know for certain that she had taken care of the problem."
Mrs. Leroy considered him for several moments longer, then sighed. Adrien perked up hopefully. "Okay. I'll give her a two-week trial period, part-time. Any problems with her attendance and she'll be done. If she does well, I'll keep her on, but only as part time unless someone from our team decides to leave. Tell her to come in tomorrow at nine o'clock."
Adrien practically danced in place. "You're the best, Mrs. Leroy! I'll tell her right away. She won't let you down, I promise!"
Adrien practically bounced towards the door, eager to let Marinette know that he had actually been successful. He was intercepted halfway there by a board member, who informed him that there was another last-minute meeting. Adrien practically whined, then decided against it.
Like Marinette, he had to be putting his best foot forward at the moment. Even if he hadn't been fired, he had been reprimanded for being tardy and missing on an increasingly frequent basis. It was only his status as the son of the company's founder that kept him employed, and now his father was a criminal and Adrien himself was, just by association, on thin ice.
The news would keep until lunch.
Marinette's wide-eyed look of amazement when Adrien told the news wasn't something that Adrien was going to forget anytime soon. Neither was the way she jumped into his arms, proclaiming him the best person in the whole world.
"I can't believe it," Marinette said, clapping her hands to her face yet again. "I'll be there early, even, every day. This is fabulous, Adrien."
"Sorry that it's only part-time," Adrien apologized. "It's better than nothing, I know, and we pay decently well, but..."
He was cut off by Marinette's hands on his cheeks. "Don't you dare apologize for anything," Marinette told him, a clear edge of her Ladybug Voice creeping into her voice. "Part-time is a start. At least I'll be in the company, I'll has a job, and I can see how things work. And I'll have time and the money to make some of my own stuff and try to sell it online, so I'm still designing and building a portfolio." The grin crept back onto her face. "And I'll get to see all of the fashion trends up close and in-person! I'll actually get to sew them and make the pieces the big-time designers dreamed up!"
Adrien grinned as he watched Marinette dance around her room. "So I take it you accept? You'll be at Gabriel's sewing room at nine tomorrow?"
"Of course!" Marinette spun back to Adrien and pulled his face down to hers, kissing him. Adrien froze, startled, then kissed Marinette back, tilting his head to get the best angle. Marinette moved closer to him, and Adrien relished the feeling of closeness as they twined together.
It was only the buzzing of his phone in his pocket and Tikki's taps at his shoulder that brought Adrien back to earth.
"I've gotta get back to work, I think," Adrien said ruefully. "So much for lunch. There's probably another publicity meltdown or something."
Marinette winced. "Is that happening often? I've been poking around fashion blog sites and I've only heard good words about how you guys are handling your father being Hawkmoth."
"I think our publicity is just being dramatic, honestly, but I should probably see what's getting their knickers in a twist this time." Adrien checked his phone and sure enough, there was another team meeting he was expected to be at. He wasn't sure why, since people rarely listened to him anymore, not that they ever really had in the first place. "And just between you and me, I think that Nathalie has a pretty good handle on steering the publicity team, but we'll see. This next month or two will really tell us how successful we've been."
"But only if you're still employed!" Tikki chided when Adrien's eyes drifted to Marinette's lips again for a moment, wondering if he could maybe get a good-bye kiss. "You can meet up after you're done for the day!"
"Fair enough." Adrien darted in for a cheek kiss. "Can I take you out for dinner tonight, Marinette?"
Marinette looked even more pleased, if that was even possible. "I'd love that. Text me when you know when you'll be finished at work?"
"Of course." Another buzz from his phone startled him, and Adrien glanced back at it with a groan. "I'd better get going. See you tonight!"
Their first (and second) date and Marinette's first week and a half went by in a flash. Marinette was several minutes early every morning and worked hard for the entire morning, earning praise for her work from Mrs. Leroy. Adrien suffered through more board meetings, in which they decided that yes, they wanted to change the name and logo and time the change with the unveiling of a new line, but there was no consensus on what to change it to. Adrien had suggested changing the logo to something that was half cat's paw and half ladybug and the name of the company also related to the superheroes somehow, just to stick it to his father, but the board had shot it down.
Apparently they thought that Ladybug and Chat Noir wouldn't appreciate their former nemesis' former company using their name and imagery in a clear publicity grab of a rebranding effort. The irony was not lost on Adrien.
After all, now both Ladybug and Chat Noir were employed by the company.
"I haven't told my parents yet," Marinette admitted as they headed into a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant Friday evening for their third date. "I think they think that I'm just out and about during the mornings, since I'm just part-time, and I haven't corrected them. But I've just been so paranoid that I'll get fired with no warning."
"I don't think that's something you'll have to worry about," Adrien told her. He glanced around the restaurant before dropping his head next to Marinette's. "Off the record- Mrs. Leroy told me today that you're a great worker and she hadn't expected how talented you are based on what she had heard. She said something about beading?"
Marinette lit up, even as she blushed at the praise. "Yeah! That's my favorite project at the moment. It's slow, but it's relaxing, and the pattern that the designer created-!" She danced a little as they headed towards the hostess' station, making Adrien grin. "It's so amazing! I'm learning so much, just by looking at their designs and making them reality."
"Table for two," Adrien told the hostess, then turned his attention back to Marinette as the hostess nodded and dug out two menus for them. "So when do you think you're going to tell your parents? You probably should do that soon, right?"
"I should. I plan to. I don't want them to try to recruit me to help down in the bakery when I need to be at work." Marinette let her breath out in a huff as they followed their hostess to a table and got seated. She accepted her menu with a quiet thanks. "I just... in their eyes, there's no reason that this time will be any different, you know? There's no reason to celebrate that I've gotten a job when they think that I'll be back out on the curb in a week. And with this one- they're going to think that I took advantage of you and your connections and that I'll be destroying a friendship and a potential relationship when I inevitably get fired."
"Your getting fired so often has really affected your relationship with them, huh?" Adrien wouldn't have believed it- he knew how caring and loving and open Marinette's parents were- but there was a reason that Adrien hadn't tried to get Marinette a position at Gabriel before he found out that she was Ladybug.
Without knowing everything, Marinette's employment history was pretty damning, and it probably was no huge surprise that it would start to wear on her parents eventually. Hopefully they could move past that when Marinette kept her job for more than a month.
Tikki peeked out of Marinette's purse. "Actually- Marinette, I've been thinking about it, and I think it would be safe to tell your parents about you being Ladybug! Then they would understand. And with Hawkmoth gone and the Butterfly Miraculous back with Fu, it should be safe. You can't tell anyone else, though. Not even Nino and Alya."
Marinette lit up. "Really? Oh, Tikki! That's great!"
Adrien grinned. That was great news. Knowing that she was Ladybug and wasn't skipping out on work on a whim would help repair Marinette's relationship with her parents for sure. Their friends would just have to be confused about Marinette's apparent sudden change in work ethic.
"Kid, I hate to say it, but you can't tell your family about you being Chat Noir," Plagg drawled, peeking out of Adrien's jacket.
Adrien rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I guessed as much, thanks."
Their waiter brought them water and took their drink orders. Marinette turned her attention back to the menu and Adrien did the same after a moment's pause. Their waiter returned with Marinette's lemonade and Adrien's soda and took their orders- penne for Adrien, tortellini for Marinette- before vanishing into the kitchen again.
"Do you think you could be there when I tell my parents about my job and about being Ladybug?" Marinette asked, and Adrien glanced over to see the pleading in her wide blue eyes. "I don't know how I'm going to do it yet-"
"Understandable, since Tikki only just gave you permission to tell them."
"-and because my parents are curious about you- well, us- since you've been dropping by a lot lately and they wanted to know how you were doing with- well, everything." Marinette glanced at him from under her lashes and Adrien had to resist the urge to kiss her. "So, are you free for dinner with my parents tomorrow evening?"
"There shouldn't be anything on my schedule," Adrien told her with a grin. "I'd love to come over for dinner. Can I help with anything, or bring anything for dinner?"
"You can come entertain me while I make dinner," Marinette said, laughing at his pout. "I've heard Nino's stories of your adventures in the kitchen. You aren't doing anything without supervision."
"Oh, that's not fair," Adrien protested, but he was laughing as well. "Those were at least half Nino's fault. He just likes pinning all of the blame on me."
"Uh-huh. That's what Nino said you would say."
After two hours spent cutting and stirring under Marinette's watchful eye, the two of them had dinner ready to serve.
Adrien didn't miss the look that Marinette's parents exchanged as they sat down at the table. They kept glancing over at him as Marinette brought over the pasta salad, clearly wondering what the occasion for his visit was, and Adrien had to do his best to try not to react.
They would understand- and understand everything- soon. He couldn't lie and say that having more people knowing his secret identity didn't make him nervous- because he and Marinette had talked and decided that it would be best if Adrien's identity as Chat Noir was also revealed so her parents knew why he had found out about Marinette before anyone else- but in all honesty, Marinette's parents were the best people who could know.
"So I have news," Marinette announced once they had served themselves dinner. She glanced over at Adrien and he squeezed her hand comfortingly. "I have a job as a part-time seamstress at Gabriel. Or whatever they've decided to call it now, I guess. That's where I've been every morning for most of the past week. Er, week and a half."
Rather than smiling, Mr. Dupain immediately frowned. "Marinette. You can't take advantage of your friends' connections. Adrien, I know you had good intentions, but-"
"Oh, I was glad to help," Adrien, putting on his best serene expression and easily cutting Tom off before he could say anything else that he might regret after the reveal. "Mrs. Leroy was just telling me earlier today about what an amazing job Marinette is doing with the beading on one of our runway pieces. She's very pleased."
Tom and Sabine exchanged a startled look. Adrien took a bite of his pasta salad and tried not to smile smugly. Given the look Marinette shot him, he probably hadn't been very successful.
"That wasn't the only thing we wanted to tell you," Marinette said after a moment of silence. She slid her chair back slightly. "So, you know how I've been having trouble keeping a job?"
Sabine and Tom both nodded, disapproving looks back on their faces. "Yes, we're well aware of that," Sabine said. "Well aware of keep getting fired for being late and missing things, which there's no excuse for. Not when it's that many times."
Marinette took a deep breath. "Yeah. So, about that..." She stood. "Tikki, transform me!"
A flash of pink lit up the dining room. Adrien picked up his fork and started eating again, glancing up in time to see the wide-eyed look on Tom and Sabine's faces. He hid a smile behind another forkful of pasta.
"Ta-da?" Ladybug offered sheepishly.
Tom leaned back slowly in his chair, eyes locked on Ladybug. "Oh. I- I was not expecting that."
Sabine still seemed frozen.
"This is why I kept missing things," Ladybug explained. "Because of the akumas attacking at bad times. But now Hawkmoth is gone, and I won't have to miss work. For akuma-related reasons, at least."
"Now a lot of things are making sense," Tom said. He sat forward again. "I knew we hadn't raised you to miss work left and right for no reason. I'm sorry we weren't understanding, Marinette. I can't even imagine how much pressure you must have been under."
Ladybug detransformed and Marinette slid back into her seat. "I wanted to tell you so, so badly. But I couldn't, not until Hawkmoth was defeated. It wasn't safe."
"Oh, sweetheart." Finally unfrozen, Sabine slid out of her seat and stepped over to hug Marinette. "We should have known that something was going on. I'm glad you told us." She looked at Adrien, who was buttering a slice of bread with the straightest possible look on his face. "I'm glad you could find something for Marinette, Adrien." She gave him a sharp look. "And based on the fact that you don't seem at all surprised, I take it you knew about Marinette being Ladybug?"
"Oh, we only revealed our identities to each other recently," Adrien said after he swallowed the bite he had taken. "About a week after my father was arrested, since I couldn't get out to meet her right away."
Tom and Sabine blinked at him. Adrien took another bite of pasta salad, just waiting. Then Sabine gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth.
"You- you're Chat Noir, aren't you?"
Adrien just nodded.
"He's the best partner I could ever ask for," Marinette said, the fond look she sent him effectively distracting him for several seconds. "Looking out for me both in and out of the suit."
"So you did have some influence in getting Marinette hired on, then," Tom commented. "I can't say I entirely disapprove, I guess, but you can't tell me that there aren't people at your work now who would judge you for that."
Adrien waved a hand dismissively. "Sure there are, but they're people who think that I'll end up in jail with my father soon, even though the police cleared me already. I don't particularly care if they have one more thing that they dislike me for."
Tom frowned. "The police thought that you might be working with your father?"
"Being MIA during akuma attacks really didn't help my case." Adrien winced. "Which the police apparently didn't know during their initial investigation of me, but several people at Gabriel who wanted me gone were sure to fill them in on that after I had been cleared."
Marinette scowled. "Who? I'll go in as Ladybug and teach them a lesson or two-"
"Or you could go to the police and tell them that I helped during a few of the attacks," Adrien pointed out. Marinette just smirked.
"I only work part-time. I could do both."
"What? I could. Getting my online shop going could wait a few days."
Adrien had to laugh. "Bug, really. The police just told that to me in passing, and they aren't re-opening the investigation, especially since they already asked my father about who knew about him and he said I never did. They were just wondering about why I had been missing then and I had to make something up about how well, I was really only part-time and had to travel across the city for photoshoots and whatnot and the akuma fights got in my way. No one ever actually recorded when I was missing and not all of the attacks made it onto TV, so there's not, like, a cohesive record of me being missing during every single attack."
"You would really be in trouble then," Tom commented. "But they didn't, and you aren't. A toast to that, and then a toast to Marinette's new job are in order, I think."
"And then we'll need to hear all about it," Sabine piped up, smiling at the two of them. "Which I'm looking forward to. But now-" She scooped up her glass and held it out. "To Marinette and Adrien, and to workdays without akuma interruptions!"
A/N:So I was a little back-and-forth on how to portray Tom and Sabine's attitude towards Marinette's job problem, but I ultimately decided that the loving her but being frustrated with it made the most sense- it's like with Marinette missing class in Simon Says, where they don't understand and aren't happy with her, but this time it's been going on for longer (prob. several years out of uni) and "repetitively getting fired for the same thing" is a bit more serious than"missed a couple classes". They'd probably be really frustrated at that point, because THEY didn't know how hard Marinette was actually working. And at this point, her friends would also kind of be judging her for the same reason- because they don't actually understand the situation. And that would get very, very frustrating.
So. Yup. That's where that came from, in case people were wondering.
As with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and is therefore complete. And as always, reviews make my day! :)