As the semester drew to a close and summer loomed on the horizon, Adrien found himself dreading the break. It wasn't as though he was going to miss having classes, or homework, or any of that, but for him, summer meant a distinct lack of hanging out with his friends.
During their first week off, all of Adrien's friends were going to be free to hang out, since they were all in town and didn't have anything else they needed to do. But Adrien would be busy nearly the entire week, with a large chunk of his time filled by photoshoots for the upcoming summer line. Normally his photoshoots were more spread out as to not overburden him, but they had all been pushed off to accommodate his final projects and tests and none of them could be delayed any longer thanks to magazine publication deadlines.
So basically, his friends would be in town and free to hang out, but he wasn't.
By the time the week was done and his run of photoshoots were over (there would, of course, be more photoshoots and filming for ads later on in the summer), his friends would all be taking off or otherwise occupied. Nino was visiting family in Morocco for a chunk of the summer and Alya had managed to snag a reporting internship in London for most of their vacation. Even Marinette would be busy for the first part of the summer, since her extended family was coming to Paris for a week and then she would be busy for part of another week with sitting in on negotiations for Jagged Stone's new line of sunglasses. She wouldn't be saying much, of course, but she was going to be designing the glasses and the rock star (or, rather, Penny) thought it would be a good experience for her. She would probably be pretty busy for another couple weeks after that getting primary designs ready in between her other duties with babysitting and helping out in the bakery. Even Ladybug had warned him that she might not be able to get away for patrols as often as she had been during the school year, at least during the first part of the summer. She had family visiting, she had explained, and it would be hard for her to slip away unnoticed until they left. Chat Noir had tried not to let his disappointment show as he nodded in understanding and quickly changed the topic.
Yeah, summer was going to suck.
Chat Noir leapt over the rooftops, enjoying the wind in his face as he vaulted into the air. He hadn't been able to transform for fun and just get out and run during revisions and finals, so now that his tests were done and he only had a couple days of very relaxed classes left to wrap up the year, he could enjoy the freedom the suit gave him. Maybe he would even see Ladybug again, though he didn't know whether or not her school was on the same schedule as his. For all he knew, she might still have a week and a half of tests remaining before she would be free for the summer. There was no way of knowing-
-or maybe he could just ask.
"Ladybug!" Chat Noir exclaimed, spinning around as his partner came running up. She had a grin on her face as she bounded up to him. "Are you done with finals?"
"Yup!" Ladybug said as she landed in front of him and straightened up, beaming. "And you?"
"Do you want to do a patrol, then?" Ladybug asked. "Or do you have other things you want-"
"Patrol," Chat Noir said quickly. He had originally hoped to hang out with his friends during the evening hours, but they all had been busy. If Ladybug wasn't busy, he would definitely jump at the chance to hang out with her all evening instead. Maybe they could just hang out for once instead of running around, or maybe they could stay out late and do both.
Thankfully Ladybug didn't seem at all off-put by his enthusiasm. Instead, she laughed. "Patrol is good. I really wanted to stretch my legs after studying all week."
Chat Noir bowed grandly, grinning at her. "Then lead the way, My Lady."
The raced around the city in almost record time, doing flips and fancy leaps as they went to blow off all of their extra energy. Once they finished, they settled on top of the Eiffel Tower to watch the traffic below.
"I'm so glad summer vacation is practically here," Ladybug said with a happy sigh, leaning back against the beams. No doubt the metal would be uncomfortably hot if they were civilians, but the suits protected them from the heat and cold. "No school, no tests, no missing classes, getting to hang out with my friends..."
Chat Noir stayed quiet. He didn't want to complain about vacation, of all things, especially when Ladybug was clearly so excited about it.
"Are you looking forward to it, Chat Noir?" Ladybug asked, just like she had when it was almost Christmas. Chat Noir winced. Just like the last time, he didn't exactly have a cheerful response to her question.
"Not...exactly?" Chat Noir admitted. He didn't want to rain on Ladybug's happiness, but they were friends and she did ask. Out of everyone in his life, Ladybug was the one person that he never wanted to lie to. "I'm going to be busy the first week, when all of my friends are free, and then once I'm free they're all either busy or out of town. I'll find things to do," he added hastily as his partner's brow creased. He didn't need to make Ladybug worried about him. He would still be able to text his friends, of course, and he would be able to see Mariette every once in a while after her family reunion was over, and even more often once she was done with Jagged Stone's meetings. He could always hang out with his other classmates, too. He didn't know them as well (well, except for Chloe, but he'd rather spend his summer alone than have to deal with Chloe clinging to him for days on end), but they were still friendly enough. Maybe he would be able to play video games with Max and practice enough that he might have a shot at beating Marinette by the time she was free to hang out again.
Ladybug still looked worried.
"I'll spend some time paw-trolling the city," Chat Noir said before Ladybug could say anything. "It'll be fun. I'll surprise some kids."
"By midsummer, at least one of them will be free," Chat Noir assured her. The fact that the one friend that would be free was the one that occasionally had trouble stringing a sentence together in front of him was irrelevant, at least for now. Ladybug didn't need to know every detail, and he was sure that he could get through to Marinette eventually. They had made a decent bit of progress recently, at least. "I'll be fine."
"If you say so." Ladybug didn't look convinced, but at least she was willing to drop it, at least for the time being. Somehow Chat Noir suspected that she would end up over-extending herself a bit to see him even when she was busy. He would have to make sure she didn't. He was used to being alone, after all, and he did have Plagg and his phone. He could still text his friends, even if they might take the entire day to respond.
"So you said that you have family coming to town, right? Chat Noir asked, trying to steer the conversation away from himself. Maybe he could get Ladybug to forget about his summertime woes. "Are you looking forward to that?"
Ladybug bit her lip. "Yes and no," she admitted. "There's a lot of people I've never met before, and some of them don't speak French very well. I'm nervous about it, because I don't want to just hang on to my parents for the entire time. One of my friends does speak Ch- er, their language, though, and he'd be all alone that week since our other friends are gone and I'm busy, so my parents said I could invite them to our family gathering if I wanted to."
"Are you going to?"
There was a pause as Ladybug thought, fidgeting along the ledge. "I want to," she finally said. "My parents really like them and they got along pretty well with one of my relatives when they came to visit once, but I haven't invited them yet."
Intrigued, Chat Noir twisted in his seat to look at her. Ladybug never talked about her civilian life this much, and he wanted to learn more. Why was she hesitating about asking a friend over? "Why haven't you asked them yet? I'm sure they would love to spend the time with you." Heaven knew that he would jump on the chance to hang out with Marinette during her family get-together. He could translate, if necessary (of course, the last time it had turned out not to be necessary, but he'd certainly had a lot of fun), and if it was a Dupain-Cheng get-together, there would be plenty of delicious food, and of course, he would get to hang out with one of his best friends. He wasn't about to invite himself, though. There was no way he was going to risk wearing out his welcome.
Ladybug worried her lower lip, letting it slide through her teeth. Chat Noir tried not to stare. "I keep trying to ask, but something always happens. Class starts, or one of our other classmates gets their attention, or I just get nervous about asking and end up talking about something else instead. And now school is nearly over for the year, but what if I can't work up the courage to ask before then?"
"You could call them on the phone," Chat Noir suggested, scooting over to try to see if he could "accidentally" bump Ladybug's feet with his own. He wasn't going to ask about why she needed courage to have a friend join her family. Maybe this friend was more the friend of a friend and she didn't know them well. Maybe they had been rude about stuff like that before- no, that didn't make sense. Ladybug didn't seem like the kind of person to tolerate a rude friend. His first theory was probably closer. Chat Noir knew perfectly well that there were some classmates of his that he might be a bit nervous approaching, since he didn't know them that well even after a year in the same class. "Or text. It might make it easier. Either way, I'm sure they'll accept. You'd make anyone's day brighter, My Lady."
"It's not like I would be transformed, chaton. I'd just be my civilian self."
"Ah, but you don't need your spots to be miraculous, bugaboo," Chat Noir teased, bumping her shoulder gently. His own grin broadened when he saw her smile grow at his words.
"The spots make it easier, though."
"They don't change who you are." Emboldened, Chat Noir leaned to the side, just a little, letting his weight rest gently against Ladybug's shoulder. "Are you going to ask?"
Ladybug shifted but didn't push him away. "Yeah. I'm nervous, sure, but I don't want them to have a crummy summer when I could have done something about it but was just too scared to."
Marinette glanced over at Adrien as they ate lunch. Today was the official last day of school, though they had all finished their exams two days prior. It was nice to have a couple days where they could all hang out together before people had to scatter for the summer. There were a few empty seats- Chloe had left for a cruise, and Kim and Alix had decided to skip to race each other around the city- but most of the class was present. Alya and Nino had happily been discussing their summer plans, but Marinette wasn't really listening. Instead, she was watching Adrien's reactions.
Adrien was trying to smile, he really was. He was trying to be excited for them, but it wasn't quite reaching his eyes and his smile was strained around the corners. He couldn't quite forget that their adventures would have the unintended side effect of leaving him alone for most of the summer.
Marinette bit her lip. She should just ask, she knew she should- there was no way Adrien would say no- but she would probably stutter, and Alya would tease her, and oooh, her family was going to tease her as well, weren't they? They would probably ask Adrien if they were dating and she wouldn't be able to head off the questions because she wouldn't understand them and then Adrien would know about her crush on him and then things would be all awkward again-
But if she didn't ask him, he would be sad and lonely. Maybe she could just wait and take Chat Noir's advice and ask Adrien by phone. She would text, so that she wouldn't have to deal with the possibility of leaving another embarrassing voice mail (she had gotten better at talking to Adrien and having an actual conversation with words that made sense and that were in the right order, but when she got nervous her words started to get away from her and she would start babbling again. And asking Adrien to hang out with her family- like a boyfriend might, when she wasn't inviting anyone else- was something that made her nervous).
"You can't put it off forever, Marinette," Tikki sighed later that day as they stared at Marinette's phone. Together they had written, re-written, re-re-written, and re-re-re-written a text to Adrien inviting him to the family get-together. "It's not fair to Adrien. Don't you want him to stop being sad about the summer sooner? Just send it."
"That's cheating." Marinette saved her text and set her phone down. "I just- what if it's too forward? What if I've been reading him wrong? What if he already has other stuff planned and he feels obligated to come and hang out with me instead? He would, he's just too nice like that-"
"You are not reading him wrong," Tikki said sternly, flying up in Marinette's face. "Adrien is not a complete pushover, and I'm sure that if he doesn't want to spend the entire week with your family, he'll say so."
Marinette wasn't entirely convinced. "Still..."
"Marinette! Time for dinner!" Sabine's voice floated up through the trapdoor, distracting Marinette before she could get too startled by Tikki's uncharacteristic show of annoyance. "Come on down!"
"Coming, Mom!" Marinette called back. She headed for the stairs, then paused to hold open her jacket for Tikki to fly in. "Come on, Tikki. We need to go down."
"Actually," Tikki started, eyeing the phone Marinette had abandoned on her desk. "Go on ahead, I'll stay up here. I'm close enough to you in case an akuma attacks."
Marinette shrugged, clearly not suspecting anything, and clattered down the stairs. Tikki waited until the noise downstairs had given way to conversation and the sound of forks on plates, and then she dove for Marinette's abandoned phone. She unlocked it quickly, swiping to Marinette's texts. She knew she shouldn't- Marinette really needed to be able to do these things by herself, she knew her Chosen could do it- but she also knew that Adrien was absolutely dreading the summer and he would be thrilled to get the invite.
Tikki pressed send.
Adrien stared at his phone, barely able to believe his eyes. He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again.
The text was still there.
"Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Adrien finally asked Plagg, holding out his phone. "I'm just seeing things, right?"
Plagg grumbled, rousing himself from his nap on top of a runny round of Camembert cheese and squinting at the phone. "It says: 'Hi Adrien, this is Marinette. My parents and I were wondering if you would be interested in joining us for our family reunion.' If that's what you're seeing, then yes, I am seeing what you're seeing."
"Wow." Adrien pulled the phone back to his chest, staring at it. "What do I say back? Yes, of course, but how excited should I come off as? I don't want to freak her out with too much enthusiasm, but, like, what do I say? Should I capitalize? Use punctuation? Do I thank her now, or when I get there, or both times? I need to thank her parents, of course, and- oh! I'll need to buy them a thank-you gift, I can't show up empty-handed-"
Plagg blinked up at his panicking Chosen as he continued to completely overthink the invitation to an almost alarming degree. At this point in his life, Plagg would have thought that Adrien would have accepting invitations down to a science, but apparently he had yet again overestimated Adrien's social competency.
Fine. Clearly he would have to help. He'd better get a whole lot of cheese in return.
Plagg swiped Adrien's phone while the boy was still distracted ("And I don't even know what they would like! I can't just get them gift cards, that's tacky!") and started texting Marinette back.
I would love to come over for the reunion! Tell your parents I said thanks! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox333
"-and it would be even tackier to ask about clothing sizes if I wanted to buy Marinette's mother a dress or a coat or-AAAAAA! Plagg, what are you doing with my phone?" Adrien's eyes went huge as he caught sight of his kwami serenely tapping away at his phone. He swiped it away quickly, eyes skimming over the message Plagg had typed out. Plagg watched in amusement as Adrien's shoulders slumped in relief as he realized that Plagg hadn't actually sent anything (yet), and then immediately tensed up again when he noticed the line of x's and o's (and the hearts) at the end of the message.
Ahh, but it was so. much. fun. to screw with his Chosen from time to time.
"You- you can't just do that!" Adrien yelped, scrambling to erase the x's and o's. "She's a friend, not a girlfriend. That would just freak her out!"
"I bet she wouldn't mind," Plagg said, knowing full well that Adrien's friend definitely would mind and would probably freak out if she ever received a text from Adrien with "hugs 'n kisses" attached to it. He would give a day's worth of cheese- actually, no. He wasn't willing to part with that amount of cheese no matter what. He would give a third of his daily cheese to be a fly on the wall in Marinette's room had Adrien accidentally sent that text with the x's and o's still attached.
"But the rest of the message is all right, I guess," Adrien said, skimming over it with a critical eye. He was probably looking for any hidden messages that Plagg might have slipped in. "And I can ask Marinette for details tomorrow when all of us get together between my photoshoots."
And still his thumb hovered uncertainly over the Send button. Plagg was tempted to bite him, just so he would jump and accidentally sent the perfectly fine text to his not-girlfriend. It would make this whole process a whole lot painful to watch.
"Should I ask about bringing a gift?" Adrien asked after another moment's pause. "Or should that wait?"
Plagg snorted. "You could bring me a gift of cheese. I don't think they expect anything. They're asking you to hang out, not come to a housewarming party or baby shower. Bring yourself."
"You didn't bring anything special the time you went over to play video games," Plagg pointed out. He groaned when Adrien didn't look convinced. "Fine, fine, whatever. Bring something if you want, but don't go too extravagant or you'll make our friends think that they're expected to bring something fancy whenever they visit your place."
Adrien's shoulders finally relaxed as he glanced over at Plagg. "Oh. Yeah, that makes sense." A pause. "So, like, what kind of flowers do you think I should bring?"
Plagg could only groan.
On the first day of the Cheng family reunion, Adrien showed up at the Dupain-Cheng's front door ten minutes early, then spent eight minutes pacing anxiously back and forth while fretting all the while.
"I should have asked about a dress code," Adrien worried aloud, picking at the collar of his freshly laundered green button-up. It was short-sleeved, good for the steamy Paris summer weather, but still dressy. "What if I underdressed? This isn't anywhere near nice enough to pass in any sort of fancy dress anything. It might have been better if I wore the other slacks instead, and my nice dress shoes-"
Plagg, who had long since abandoned his hiding spot in Adrien's bag in favor of lounging on an awning (and who had long since gotten very, very fed up with Adrien's overthinking the invitation from his friend), sighed loudly. "I am pretty sure that you're far more likely to be overdressed. Isn't this thing in the park?"
"That doesn't mean anything," Adrien responded automatically, tugging on the hem of his shirt to straighten it. "I've seen plenty of fancy parties in the park before. Maybe I should go home quick and change now before they see me-"
"And then you would be late and incredibly overdressed," Plagg drawled, wriggling so that the sun hit him just so. "At least wait to see them first before you go back to change clothes. Again."
"Do you really think Marinette's family is the type to go crazy dressing up?" Plagg demanded, finally fed up with Adrien's indecisive blithering. It was exhausting to listen to, and the kwami was about 95% certain that he wouldn't react the same way if it had been Nino or Alya's family inviting him over. The difference was...interesting, to say the least. Plagg couldn't possibly fathom why Adrien might act so differently around Marinette's family. "They seem pretty laid back to me. I really doubt that their get-togethers would be anything like Chloe's parties."
"That...that is true. But it's not just Marinette and her parents," he pointed out, resuming his pacing just as suddenly as he had stopped. "I don't know what the rest of her family is like at all. I've only ever met her great-uncle before, and from what I've heard, there's a lot more of them than just him. It's an extended family reunion."
Before Plagg could reply, the door flew open and Sabine stuck her head out, beaming as she caught sight of Adrien standing there. "Adrien! You should have rung the bell! How long have you been waiting out here for? And so dressed up as well! You look very nice, dear."
"I arrived a bit early and didn't want to impose," Adrien managed as Sabine ushered him inside and up the stairs to their apartment above the bakery. "And I wasn't sure if there was some sort of dress code for this event. I forgot to ask about that before."
Sabine looked startled for a moment. "Dress code? Oh, we don't have one. I'm sure a few of the aunts and uncles will be all tidied up, but most everyone else will be wearing t-shirts and shorts."
"I told you so," muttered Adrien's collar.
"Marinette is running a little behind this morning, but we'll be heading over to the park soon enough," Sabine told Adrien as they mounted the last step and headed for the living room door. Sabine led Adrien in. "Tom! Look who I found outside!"
Tom was standing over by their kitchen counter, organizing the baskets of bread and bowls of food sitting there. At Sabine's call, he looked up and grinned at the sight of Adrien. "Hey! I'm so glad you could come, son. Marinette has really been looking forward to this now that you're going as well."
Adrien blinked, startled by the endearment, but he managed a smile all the same. Thankfully Tom didn't seem to notice anything amiss with Adrien's response and after sending another wide smile Adrien's way, he returned to organizing the food that they were bringing to the reunion picnic. Sabine joined Tom at the counter, leaving Adrien standing a bit awkwardly in the middle of the room. He fidgeted, unsure if he should offer to help. Tom and Sabine seemed to have a plan for where everything went and he didn't want to mess up their system. His eyes flicked up to the trapdoor to Marinette's room, hoping she would appear soon. His hopes were answered moments later as the trapdoor banged open and Marinette came flying down the stairs, running straight into Adrien in her hurry. Adrien's arms went around her automatically, trying to keep them both upright as he stumbled backwards. It only took them a moment to steady themselves, and then Adrien released Marinette so she could step back.
Marinette's cheeks were pink in embarrassment as she untangled herself and took several quick steps back. Adrien gave her a moment to collect herself as he took in her outfit. She looked nice, as she always did, and it looked like the pink sundress she was wearing was one of her own designs. It had definitely turned out well. As talented as Marinette had been when Adrien first met her, she had definitely improved even more over the past year. While his father would probably be able to pick out tiny flaws in the dress, Adrien couldn't see any mistakes in the design, the sewing, or the embroidery.
"Nice of you to join us, Marinette," Tom teased her as he folded a cloth over the top of a basket full of bread. "Good morning, sleepyhead."
"Good- good morning," Marinette managed in return, blushing pinker yet as she caught sight of Adrien's amused expression. He promptly tried to arrange it into something more neutral, not wanting to embarrass his friend.
"Sit down and have a late breakfast, then," Tom said, waving a hand at the partly cleared counter. "We have croissants and jam. Adrien, would you like some as well?"
"If it isn't any trouble, sir," Adrien said immediately, trying not to perk up too much. He definitely wanted a croissant (or two or three), but he also didn't want to inconvenience Marinette's family at all. If they only had enough croissants out for Marinette to have, he could wait until they got to the park to sample some of their amazing baking.
Tom chuckled, steering both teens over to the counter. "Oh, no trouble at all. We have plenty of baked goods here, after all. Eat all you want."
Ten minutes later, Adrien found himself wishing that he hadn't eaten quite so much. They had just finished arranging their food on one of the tables that had been set up for the reunion, and there were a ton of things that Adrien wanted to try. Marinette's great-uncle had clearly gotten access to a kitchen, because he was just finishing arranging several delicious-looking platters and bowls down at the far end of the table. There were other dishes set out as well, ones that Adrien assumed were from the other members of Marinette's family that had already arrived. A fairly large group had gathered in the middle of the park- a surprisingly large group, actually- and Adrien caught snatches of conversation in Mandarin. Most of it was going by so quickly that he missed all but a couple words.
Adrien gulped. He had sort of envisioned himself listening to and contributing to the conversations with- well, not with ease, maybe, but without too much difficulty. Clearly that wasn't going to be the case. He was good at Mandarin (at least according to his teacher), but he wasn't that good. He might be able to pick up on a general topic of conversation if people were talking at that speed, but specifics? He didn't have a chance. But this was Marinette's family he was talking about. They would probably slow down if he and Marinette wanted to join, right?
Next to him, Marinette followed his gaze. She looked just as apprehensive as Adrien felt. "They talk really fast, don't they? Mom taught me a couple words and phrases that she thought might be useful, but I don't think that's going to help much."
"We probably talk fast in their eyes, too," Adrien said, trying to sound more confident than he felt. He unconsciously moved a bit closer to Marinette. She and her family (and her great-uncle) were the only people here that he knew at all and he really didn't want to get separated. "Uh...anyone here that you recognize besides your parents?"
"Great-Uncle Cheng," Marinette said immediately. "And, uh..." Her eyes scanned the crowd and she bit her lip. "Um."
"Do people not visit often?" Adrien would have pegged Marinette's family to be the sort that would be close-knit. Of course, the international distance and language barrier would probably be a bit of a barrier to that.
Marinette made a bit of a face. "Not really? Dad's side of the family visits all the time since they all still either live in or near France, for the most part, but they aren't coming to this reunion because we see them all the time anyway," she explained. "And there's fewer of them, too."
"There's a lot more people than I thought there would be," Adrien commented as he looked over at the group again. That was a lot of people. "So is it, like, really extended family or something? It must be."
Marinette shook her head, then paused, then nodded, then shook her head again before shrugging at Adrien's confused look. "I'm not sure how distant some of my relatives are. But they aren't all blood relatives, either! Some are family friends that are so close that it's hard to know who is and who isn't related. I'm pretty sure that at least half of my 'cousins' on my mom's side aren't actually cousins, but it doesn't really matter. It does make it hard to get to know everyone, though."
"But your mom knows them," Adrien noted as he watched Sabine wade into the assembled group, greeting people left and right. Tom followed her, smiling and waving as people greeted the two of them.
"She saw a lot of them pretty often as a kid," Marinette explained as they slowly approached the group. Adrien noticed a couple curious glances in their direction. "And she takes trips to China every few years. Papa usually stays behind to run the bakery and I, well." Marinette shrugged, looking a little sheepish. "I stay behind for school. I could go, but I...I just don't particularly enjoy sitting around not understanding anything while everyone is chatting."
"Understandable." Adrien reached out and gave her hand a squeeze. "I can translate for you- that is, if I can keep up with what they're saying."
Marinette turned pink for some reason, but gave his hand a squeeze back anyway. "I'd like that. Thanks."
Thankfully, Marinette's relatives seemed more than willing to slow down their conversations so Adrien could understand. They even paused to give him time to translate for Marinette. They were really very friendly and interested in what he did, and they didn't seem to mind repeating themselves whenever he missed a word (which was embarrassingly often).
The only problem with them was that they seemed determine to misinterpret Adrien's relationship with Marinette.
Adrien could see where they might have gotten the wrong impression initially. He was the only friend of Marinette's to come to the reunion, and he and Marinette had been kind of been holding hands for a short while after they first arrived. He was more or less attached to Marinette's side (to be translator, but her family hadn't known that at first), which also wasn't exactly helping dispel the misconception that he was dating his friend. Almost every relative of Marinette's that they met started out with saying "Sabine didn't tell us that Marinette had a boyfriend!" or something else along those lines, and then Adrien was left to stumble over his Mandarin (initially half-forgotten from nerves), trying to find some way to say that no, they weren't dating, but yes, Marinette was very cute and was a wonderful person. Every time, Marinette stood off to the side as that conversation went on, looking stuck somewhere between puzzled and frustrated that she couldn't understand, because there was no way Adrien was going to translate that particular conversation.
The friendship between him and his friend had only just managed to get back on track after the ill-fated gum incident and things seemed to be going spectacularly well between them today. Adrien wasn't about to risk making things weird between them again.
"I'm not gonna have to study Mandarin at all this week, I think," Adrien joked as he and Marinette took a break from socializing to go peruse the tables of food. "I think I've learned a dozen new words just this morning, not to mention all of the conversation practice."
"Do you still have a lot of lessons during the summer?" Marinette asked as she piled a couple cookies onto her plate.
"Not rea- actually," Adrien corrected himself. "I still have my regular lessons. I just don't have school classes. So I still have Chinese, piano, fencing, and basketball- well, technically basketball isn't lessons so much, but I do occasionally have to go early to practice with the coach. And Nathalie will probably give me a few review lessons so I don't forget stuff over the summer, and...I think that's it."
Marinette looked a bit dazed.
"I might start up karate again for the summer," Adrien added absently, remembering a half-heard conversation between Nathalie and his father. He had been glad to quit karate when he started school, since he had quite enough on his plate as it was (the addition of both school and superheroing filled his schedule up pretty well), but it might come in handy when he was fighting as Chat Noir. "So...I guess that's technically considered a lot of lessons?"
"That's so much," Marinette breathed, wide-eyed. Her cookie hung in the air, forgotten. "Wow. I usually just sleep and help out in the bakery."
"Somehow I find that hard to believe," Adrien said with a laugh. "You're trying to tell me that you don't spend hours and hours designing and sewing during the summer, even when you don't have commissions to do? That you don't spend a ton of free time babysitting so you can have extra cash to buy fabric? That you don't get together with Mylène and Rose and Juleka and Alix and-"
"Okay, maybe I do a little more than sleep and work the counter," Marinette acquiesced with a laugh. "But it's all stuff that I don't have to do if I don't want to. It's not all scheduled like yours."
Adrien shrugged. He didn't particularly think that his schedule of activities was all that impressive. Nathalie was the one who set it up, after all. "So? That doesn't make it any less important. You're a go-getter. I mostly just do what I'm told to do. I think only the basketball and fencing were things that I picked out, and even with those I got a list of approved activities to pick things from. And besides, didn't I hear something about you working with Jagged Stone to design some new glasses for him this summer?"
Marinette lit up and she nodded eagerly. "Yeah! I've already got some preliminary designs from ideas I came up with on my own, but I still need to clean them up and make some prototypes- after I make sure that they're what Jagged Stone wants. It's a lot of fun, since Jagged's style can be a bit out there and I kind of have free rein to do anything, as long as it's colorful and fun."
"And colorful and fun is exactly your style," Adrien finished. He definitely liked Marinette's style. It was a lot more playful than his father's, though she was still completely capable of pulling off designs for more formal occasions that still kept that same playfulness to them. If she ever branched out into designing for boys and men, he would definitely be interested in wearing something she made.
Marinette nodded and looked like she was going to say something else, but then she caught sight of someone coming up behind Adrien. "Great-uncle Cheng! How are you?"
"Oh, very good," Wang Cheng replied with a broad smile. It spread wider when he noticed Adrien standing there. "Adrien! How is your Chinese coming along?"
"It's getting plenty of practice," Adrien admitted with a grin, making sure that he didn't speak too fast. It was nice of Marinette's great-uncle to make the effort to speak in French, though he suspected that it was more for Marinette's benefit than to give his spinning head a break.
"I can see that," Mr. Cheng said with a laugh. "It is difficult to talk in another language for a long time, yes?"
Adrien nodded fervently, getting laughs from both Marinette and her great-uncle.
"Will you be coming the rest of the week as well?"
"That's the plan, I think," Adrien said a tad nervously, glancing over at Marinette. She nodded minutely. "I don't know what all is going on besides this, but, uh..."
"There's a tour around Paris tomorrow, I think," Marinette chimed in. "Ending at a restaurant in the evening, I think. And after that...I really don't know."
"Brunch at the Grand Paris the next day," Mr. Cheng said. "And possibly a board game day in the afternoon. Although I hear that you both like video games?"
Both Adrien and Marinette grinned at that. "I think we might want to avoid Mega Strike if we don't want to scare everyone else off," Adrien joked, grinning. Alya and Nino both refused to play the fighting game against either Adrien or Marinette because it was impossible to win. If the point of a game day was to have nice, non-competitive fun, then...well. Mega Strike definitely wasn't the right choice. On top of that, someone might have to restrain Marinette so she wouldn't get overly competitive. Adrien had learned the hard way that Marinette could be just as bad as Alix and Kim when it came to video games.
...whether or not she was just as bad when it came to board games, he didn't know. He supposed he would learn.
"And then the next two days are unplanned, in case of weather," Mr. Cheng finished. "Or if people find things that they want to do. Too much planning is, ah..."
"Stifling?" Adrien suggested, before realizing that Mr. Cheng might not know the word. He scrambled for another word. "Uh..."
"Yes, that sounds correct," Mr. Cheng decided after a moment. "Not enough choice to explore."
"And I think a lot of us will be wiped out by halfway through the week," Marinette said. "Too much visiting, too many names to remember, too many new faces..."
"Too much talking in another language," Adrien added with a laugh.
Mr. Cheng grinned. "Yes, that as well." Behind them, someone called his name and he glanced back. "I have to go for now, but I will see you later in the week?" Once he got their nods, he smiled again and waved before heading back to joining the group of adults.
"Do you need a break before we go back?" Marinette asked, pausing before she took another bite. "You've been translating all morning."
"A break would be good," Adrien admitted. "My brain is goo right now. It's fun to be able to talk to your family and learn about them, but it's also stressful trying to think up the words and everything. I can't wait until game day. Hopefully there won't be too much translation necessary during the game itself."
Marinette's face lit up with a worryingly competitive look. "Yeah! Now that Great-uncle Cheng mentioned it, I remember my parents talking about game day. They were talking about what games we could play. There were definitely some of my favorites on there."
"Play nice," Adrien said, half serious and half joking. "Let other people win for once."
Marinette stuck her tongue out, and Adrien grinned. Sassy Marinette was the best Marinette. She seemed to forget her nerves around him then. "Never!"
"Are you two having fun?" Sabine asked, coming up to join them. She had a plate of her own, filled with significantly less sugar than Adrien and Marinette's plates. She raised an eyebrow at their sweets-laden plates and both teens grinned a bit sheepishly. "Adrien, I hear you're quite good at Mandarin. All of the relatives keep telling me how great you are."
Adrien couldn't stop the blush that swiftly took over his face. He ducked his head, embarrassed. "They've been very helpful. Everyone talks slower and repeats themselves when I don't understand something they said. I would have been lost if I tried to keep up with a normal conversation."
"Yes, I quite agree. They slow down for me as well." Sabine took a bite of her pasta salad and smiled at Adrien fondly. "But I'm guessing you needed a bit of a break?"
Adrien nodded fervently. Sabine laughed.
"There's a few of Marinette's cousins that are trying to learn French. They would probably love the chance to talk with you guys." Sabine scanned the group, then pointed at a small cluster of teens huddled under a tree. "They aren't as good at French as you are at Mandarin, but they would probably love to try."
"We can go over there once we finished eating," Adrien promised. "I remember what it's like, trying to hold a conversation in a language I barely had a grip on. And it'll be nice to talk to some people closer to our age."
"It'll be nice to be able to understand most of the conversation without translation," Marinette said as her mother wandered back off again. "Not that I don't appreciate you translating!" she added to Adrien quickly. "It's just, well..."
"It's definitely not the same as being able to actively participate in the conversation," Adrien finished for her. "No worries. I definitely know the feeling. I've traveled other places before and had to have a translator, and I hate it. I mean, having to rely that the other person is actually translating correctly and not omitting anything? It always seemed like their conversations were way too long for the amount of information that was getting translated back to me."
Adrien tried not to wince as he said that, knowing full well that he definitely hadn't translated everything that Marinette's assorted family members had said. He hadn't wanted to translate their assumption that he and Marinette were dating- it was , and there were a few other quick remarks that he hadn't translated, either. And then the first time that he came to translate for Marinette's great-uncle, he hadn't been the best at translating the conversation that he had to Marinette. Of course, it ended up not being necessary in the long run, so no translation had been necessary at their dinner, but still. Adrien could only guess how frustrated his friend must have been before her great-uncle revealed that he could speak a bit of French.
He would do better. Even as exhausting as it was to speak another language all day, he wouldn't slack off on his translating duties during the rest of Marinette's family's get-together for anything.
A/N: So this particular story is a three-parter, if I'm remembering correctly. It's another one of my stories that I started several years back and never quite finished until now! (I'm slowly working my way through my stash of ancient stories, yay!) I'll post the other two parts in between chapters of HTFAM.
As always, reviews are much appreciated! :)