a/n: So this was inspired after seeing Alya and Nino repetitively dump their babysitting duties off onto Marinette, who we've already seen overworked and overwhelmed because all of her responsibilities and who definitely doesn't have time to take on what are clearly meant to be Alya's and Nino's responsibilities just because they want to go on yet more dates. Like...that just annoyed me.
So of course, I wrote a fic fixing it.
Marinette took one glance at the clock as she headed for the stairs of the Grand Paris and groaned. She had hoped when the akuma of the day had popped up that they would be able to defeat it quickly so that she could get back to her normal work again, but no such luck. Instead, the akuma had taken longer than usual to defeat, and now there was absolutely no way that she could babysit for Alya and Nino and finish the homework that she needed done the next day, not unless she stayed up late to work on it and she really didn't want to do that again.
On top of all of that, her phone was dead, so she couldn't text Alya and let her know right now. By the time she ran home and got her charger, it would be practically time for Marinette to be over at Alya's house to take over watching the three kids. It would be too late for Alya to find someone else to babysit so that she and Nino could go out, and then they would be irritated with Marinette again.
Groaning more, Marinette picked up the pace. Maybe she would have to drop by Alya's apartment to let her know in person instead of texting- that might be faster, actually- but what if Alya wasn't there because she was out after chasing the akuma for the Ladyblog? Or what if Alya thanked her for coming and ran off before Marinette got the chance to say anything? She couldn't afford to turn in any more assignments late, and it wasn't smart to be running low on sleep, not when Marinette had to be alert and quick-thinking when battling akumas. No, she would have to go home and maybe use her mom's phone to text Alya first, and she would just have to deal with her best friend's annoyance later, but at least Marinette would be able to get her homework done and not fail and get grounded for a dozen years and-
Marinette skidded to a stop and turned around to see Alya's mom standing there by the stairwell door, apparently on her break. It took a second for that to sink in, and then Marinette perked up. Perfect! For once, her Ladybug luck was kicking in."Madam Césaire! Hi! You're, like, just the perfect person for me to run into right now!"
Madam Césaire laughed. "The perfect person? And why is that?"
"Alya asked yesterday if I could babysit for her and Nino again tonight and I said yes but I just realized that I really can't because I'm super crazy behind on my homework and I would text her but my phone is dead and by the time I get home, it'll be really late to let them know-" Marinette took a deep breath and finished- "so do you think that you could text her? I'll text her myself when I get my phone a bit charged, too, but I don't want to leave her hanging."
Madam Césaire considered Marinette's phone as she waved it in the air. "Actually, I can give you my phone charger so that you can text her yourself. I've got it right here, actually- my phone can finish charging later. Just give it to one of the wait staff and tell them it's mine once you're done."
Marinette perked up. "Oh, that's even better! Thank you, Madam Césaire!"
"It's no problem at all." Madam Césaire handed Marinette the charger with a smile. "I've got to go, but it was nice talking to you, Marinette."
Marinette waved good-bye, then went to go find an outlet to plug in her phone. It didn't take long for her phone to charge up enough for her to turn it on and open her messages.
Marinette: I'm so so so sorry but I can't babysit tonight! I'm REALLY behind on my homework and I know that I wouldn't be able to get it done with the twins and Chris running around! :( :( :(
It didn't take long to get a response. Marinette winced before opening it.
Alya: boo HW! You're always behind, aren't you? No worries, though, we got someone else to accept last-minute. Go catch up so that you can actually babysit next time!
Marinette cringed at that. She was always behind on homework, but it wasn't exactly her fault. She was a full-time superhero so she had less time to start with, and then when she missed class then she had to learn the material on her own, which could be hard sometimes. Alya and Nino were only part-time superheroes, so they weren't getting their normal lives interrupted anywhere near as often. They had plenty of free time. Marinette did not.
...Marinette also had a really hard saying no, which was why this kept happening in the first place.
Marinette: OK I'm glad that things worked out! Say hi to the girls and Chris for me!
With that sent, Marinette unplugged her phone and pushed herself up off the floor. She didn't have any time to waste, really. There were several assignments and papers that she had to get done tonight, and then she had to start getting ahead on her homework again so she wouldn't be scrambling to finish last minute.
Sometimes being a superhero really stunk.
Marlena Césaire had been having a relatively normal day. It was a typical weekday workday at the hotel, with only a handful of hotel guests having lunch in-house and maybe twice that number of off-the-street customers. Then there was a slight lull before dinner where all of the chefs could get some prep work done, and Marlena took advantage of the calm to duck out and take her break. She always did a bit of reading on her break and grabbed a snack, relaxing before the madness that was dinner rush and checking in with her kids to make sure that they were all right.
She had to hope that Otis would have a better work schedule soon. As head chef at the Grand Paris, she had to work most evenings so that the kitchen would run smoothly, and at the moment her husband had to work one evening a week and be on-call two other evenings. That meant that at least one evening per week the kids were home alone and Nora and Alya had to split babysitting duties, which wasn't entirely ideal. It did give them some feel for responsibility, which was good, but Nora had more and more commitments as she grew older and it wasn't fair to hold her back, and Alya had homework to do and it was easier to finish if she wasn't trying to keep Ella and Etta in line.
The phone call home went smoothly, and as her break came to an end she was feeling good about the evening. Alya had things under control at home, and she could focus on making the hotel kitchen run smoothly.
And then Alya's friend Marinette went zipping by, and after a quick exchange Marlena was left reeling. Alya had been having Marinette do her babysitting for her? More specifically, she had been having Marinette do babysitting for her and Nino, all without asking their parents first? This was the first time Marlena had heard of the arrangement.
Marlena liked knowing exactly what was going on at home and who was watching her girls. She liked knowing where her daughters were. Nora could come and go as she pleased- she was old enough, after all- but Alya needed to tell her parents where she was. And she wasn't.
(On top of that, somehow Marlena doubted that Alya and Nino were paying Marinette for babysitting for them, and considering that Alya at least was getting a significant bonus to her allowance for babysitting- well, that just wasn't right.)
She Was Not Happy.
Alya was taking advantage of being home alone with the twins to go on secret dates with Nino, that much was clear. And she was taking advantage of her friends in order to do that. Marinette had seemed quite frantic when she dashed by, and it wasn't okay for Alya to be asking her friends to babysit when they were struggling to keep up with their homework, even if she had asked her parents for permission first.
So now she had to decide what to do. Marinette clearly hadn't realized that she had told on Alya, so Marlena could catch her daughter red-handed. If she got off early tonight- which was possible, she could ask her second-in-command to take over because of a family emergency- she could get home early and see if Alya was gone.
Which she would be, Marlena knew. When Marinette sent her phone charger back in with a server, she had also passed along the message that a different friend- Alya hadn't said who- would be babysitting instead. That was very, very useful information, though also worrying.
Marlena had met Marinette before and seen her with kids. She was trustworthy, if perhaps a little easily overwhelmed. But she didn't know anything about this other person. Who knew if they were trustworthy or could deal well with children?
So Marlena went to her second-in-command and told him that she would have to leave a couple hours early, timed so that Alya would most certainly be out with Nino and not yet back. It was unfortunate and not a habit that she wanted to get into- she needed to take her duties as head chef responsibly, after all- but it was a bit of a family emergency.
So a couple hours earlier than usual, Marlena clocked out and headed home. Her apartment door swung open to reveal three wide-eyed kids listening to a girl who Marlena had most certainly never met before, who was in the middle of telling them about how she had saved a whole train's worth of people on an amusement park ride in London after a safety feature on the ride broke.
...yeah, that sounded perfectly believable. Not. Marlena raised an eyebrow and let the door click shut loudly.
The voices in the other room abruptly cut off and four pairs of eyes swung towards her. Ella and Etta lit up at once, jumping up and running over to her for hugs. Chris waved. The stranger babysitter turned pale.
Interesting. Did she perhaps know that Alya wasn't supposed to be having her friends babysit for her? It was strange that Marinette didn't, then.
"Madam Césaire! Hi, I'm Lila Rossi, Alya's friend," the girl said, recovering and hopping up to greet her. "She didn't tell me that you would be returning early tonight!"
"And Alya didn't tell me that she was having her friends babysit for her," Marlena said, ignoring the girl's hand for the moment. Something about this girl wasn't sitting right with her. Maybe it was the lie that she had overheard as she came in, maybe it was Lila's reaction to seeing Marlena, maybe it was-
Lila Rossi? Marlena remembered Alya talking about this girl, actually. There had been some really questionable stories that Alya had conveyed, and Marlena had assumed that the clearly unbelievable details were mostly thanks to Alya's tendency to embellish and exaggerate. Now, though...
It seemed that Alya was probably relaying the stories pretty much as told, and the problem lay with the initial teller of the (clearly untrue) tales. The initial teller, who had apparently been trusted to watch children.
Lila clutched at her shirt and sighed dramatically. After cooking for actors both established and aspiring for years, Marlena could recognize acting when she saw it, and this girl was most certainly making up a story on the spot. "Yes, well, it was just the once- apparently Alya and Nino had reservations at this restaurant nearby that they really wanted to go to but the staff messed up on their reservation date and put it today rather than on the weekend, and they either had to give up the reservation or get a substitute sitter and they had so been looking forward to it, so of course I offered to step in. They must have forgotten to tell you! School's been so busy lately, so of course that's understandable."
Marinette had said something about babysitting again. Lila was claiming that this was a one-time thing and that she had been lined up to help out ages in advance. They were completely contradictory claims.
Marlena knew who she believed, and it wasn't the girl in front of her. Just in case, though, she would be asking the kids in front of her once Lila was gone.
"Well, thank you for coming in," Marlena said rather than arguing with this girl. If she was right and Lila was a liar- which was pretty obvious, honestly, Marlena dealt with celebrity clients on a near-daily basis and she knew that they wouldn't be falling over themselves to give favors to some 14-year-old girl that they had met once, and ambassadors weren't going to be meeting up with all sorts of celebrities anyway- then there would be no point in arguing. "I can take care of the kids now. Alya can pay you whatever she's promised at school in the morning."
"Oh, no pay needed!" Lila said cheerfully. "I volunteered to do it. I love working with kids- I volunteered a bunch of time at an orphanage when I was in Africa for a summer as part of my charity organization for disadvantaged kids."
...well, that explained why Alya thought that this Lila character was an acceptable emergency babysitter.
"That's very nice," Marlena said politely. "Do you need to call someone for pickup?"
Lila shook her head. "No, I'll take the bus. It's not that late yet. Bye-bye, guys!" she called, waving to the three kids. "Good night!"
And with one last wave, Lila was out the door. Marlena waited for a minute to make sure that she wasn't coming back, and then she turned to the kids.
"All right," Marlena said, placing her hands on her hips and surveying the three of them. "I have some questions for you three, and I'd like some answers."
By the time Nino and Alya returned (far too late for collège students to be out, especially without their parents' knowledge), Marlena had interrogated the younger kids and found out that Alya had been going out with Nino instead of babysitting every week, and Lila had babysat for her three times in total, not just the once. Marinette had done all of the other times, including some times when the twins were with Nora but Marinette had babysat Chris for Nino, or when Chris was at home with his parents but the twins were with Marinette.
She suspected, based off of what Lila had said, that Marinette had been paid for exactly zero of that. That would be coming out of Alya's allowance so that Marinette would actually be compensated for the not insignificant amount of time that she had spent roped into babysitting.
Marlena had called up Otis to let him know what was going on, and he had come home early, too. Then she called up Nino's parents. Just as she had suspected, they had thought that their two sons were at home, not over at the Césaire apartment, and they were none too happy to find out that Nino had been sneaking out behind their backs.
Twenty minutes before Otis would have normally returned home, Marlena heard Alya's keys turn in the lock. She and Otis exchanged a look, sitting up at the table and fixing the door with a stern stare.
Alya and Nino stepped in, heads together as they laughed about something. They were clearly absorbed with each other, so Marlena cleared her throat pointedly. Their heads whipped towards her at once, and she had the great pleasure of watching the blood drain from their faces.
"You two were meant to be babysitting separately tonight," Otis started sternly. "Each at your own homes. Instead, you had a friend that we hadn't ever met watching all three kids. Explain yourselves. Now."
Marinette came into school feeling really good. The homework that she had to get done hadn't taken her quite as long as she had expected (though she still wouldn't have been able to get it done if she had been babysitting), so she had gone ahead and gotten ahead on a couple other assignments, knocking out most of an essay and doing some research for her Civics class. It put her in a pretty good position, and she had even gotten to go to bed on time for the first time in nearly a week.
So she was well-rested, caught up, and relaxed. Marinette had plans to continue her work over lunch, since she was on a roll with both research and her essay, and then maybe she could actually be able to do some designing for the first time in-
Well, she had done some sketching between classes, sure, but she hadn't gotten to sit down and design for a while. Things had just been too busy.
Marinette was not expecting Alya to storm in, looking miserable and upset and a little bit angry. She slammed down into her seat, scowling.
"Someone must have ratted me and Nino out to my parents!"
Alya's face was red. "I got home last night and my parents were already home and they were furious that I had been going out on dates with Nino and having other people babysit for us- well, having you and Lila babysit, at least- without telling them, and now I'm grounded and not allowed to go on any dates with Nino for at least a month and I'm having my allowance chopped- and when I was so close to saving up for a new camera for reporting, too- and there's no way that they just happened to come home early!"
Marinette's gut twisted as she absorbed that onslaught of information. She knew exactly how Madam Césaire found out about Alya's stand-in babysitters, and she felt so, so guilty about it. But she- she hadn't known! It had been reasonable to assume that Alya and Nino's parents knew about their dates and substitute babysitters, right? The two of them had been going out and staying out past dark, and if Marinette were in their shoes, her parents would definitely know what she was up to. They'd be super upset about her going behind their back to do stuff.
(Superhero activities excluded, of course.)
And Alya had definitely never told Marinette that her parents didn't know about the whole arrangement.
"Like, we've been doing this just fine for months, and we've been getting back a good half-hour before my dad gets off to be safe, just like Lila suggested," Alya continued, and Marinette frowned. Lila had suggested it? Lila hadn't even been at school when Nino and Alya started shirking their babysitting duties to go out on dates. "And we bribe the girls and Chris not to mention having a different babysitter with extra dessert. And then all of a sudden, this happens."
"You were coming back before your parents even before Lila got back to Paris," Marinette pointed out, frowning. "And at the same time, too."
Alya snorted, waving that off. "Text messages exist, silly. I was in contact with Lila the entire time she was traveling, because I wanted to hear about all of the cool stuff she was up to! When I told her about having to babysit and not getting to have enough dates with Nino, she suggested that I just ask someone else to babysit. And I knew my parents wouldn't approve, so that was when she suggested giving ourselves plenty of buffer time." Alya sighed. "It worked really well! Until yesterday. I can't believe it! We got betrayed!"
Nino slid into the seat in front of Alya. He looked exhausted, too. "Babe, I told you before, it might just have been really bad timing. Maybe it was a slow night at the Grand Paris and your mom decided to come home early. I've been around your place enough to hear her saying that she'd like to be at home with you guys more."
Alya slumped in her seat. "Maybe. But Lila said that she told my mom that it was just the once and she made an excuse for us, but mom seemed to know that there had been a lot of times."
"She might have asked the kids directly, and they probably told her everything," Nino countered. "Seriously, Al. No one told on us."
Marinette swallowed hard as Nino patted Alya's hand comfortingly. She still looked like a stormcloud, and was unlikely to calm down soon. Lila came in then, going straight to Alya and immediately lamenting about what had happened the previous night. Marinette tuned her out, feeling dread twisting in her gut.
She really should admit to accidentally telling Madam Césaire, but Alya was clearly furious about her bonus dates coming to an end and all of the associated punishments that came with her parents finding out. On top of that, she and Marinette had been going through some rough spots lately because Marinette still refused to accept Lila and Alya refused to entertain the idea that Lila was a liar. Marinette didn't want to admit to her mistake only for Alya to give her the cold shoulder for who-knew-how-long.
The rock sat in Marinette's stomach all morning as Alya stewed next to her. She hadn't- she hadn't known, she hadn't meant for this to happen, she just wanted to make sure that Alya knew that she couldn't do the babysitting with enough time to find someone else. Marinette had tried to do the responsible thing, and it had backfired.
She should do the responsible thing and 'fess up, too. But Marinette was scared.
"You seem distracted, love," Mrs. Cheng commented as Marinette picked at her lunch listlessly. "Anything that you want to talk about?"
Marinette considered it and then decided that yeah, she definitely needed to talk to her mom. It would help to have a second opinion. So she started explaining. Partway through, her dad came up to eat, too, and paused to listen in, leaning on the counter as he ate.
"I know I should tell her," Marinette finished miserably. "But..."
"Well, if you want my opinion- normally I would say yes, you need to tell Alya," Mr. Dupain said, exchanging a look with Mrs. Cheng, and Marinette wilted. "But not in this case, unless Alya admits that she was in the wrong for not telling you that she didn't have her parents' permission first. From what you're telling me, it sounds like she and Nino are ignoring that they put themselves in that position. She would blame her punishment entirely on you and that isn't fair."
Marinette blinked in surprise and looked to her mom. Mrs. Cheng was nodding, too.
"I wouldn't have been comfortable with you doing babysitting for Alya and Nino if we had known that her parents didn't approve," Mrs. Cheng told Marinette. "And frankly, I was going to say something about it soon. We've noticed that you've seemed pretty stretched thin lately and picking up unpaid babysitting definitely wasn't helping."
"And Alya knows that you have trouble saying no," Mr. Dupain added. "And it sounds like they took advantage of that. And they took advantage of it quite a bit."
Marinette paused, then nodded because they were right. She had been more stressed every time that her friends begged her to babysit because they 'so wanted to go on this cool date'. She didn't want to disappoint them, so she accepted unless she really couldn't spare any time.
"This will teach them a lesson about honesty, hopefully," Mrs. Cheng added. "And it might help the two of them take a step back and realize that they've been neglecting other things in favor of their relationship. For example, their friendship with you. True friends shouldn't take advantage of each other like they did to you, and they should have noticed that the added responsibility was stressing you out."
"And they also need to realize that going on dates was not more important than their responsibilities," Mr. Dupain added. "If they wanted to do some extra dates, then they should have asked their parents first, then made sure that you had time to spare. But from what I've heard, they got one date a week normally anyway, which is plenty at your age."
"But what if Alya finds out later and gets mad at me then for not telling her?" Marinette asked anxiously. She could see where her parents were coming from- Alya had lied by omission first- but she just wanted to cover every possibility.
"Well, hopefully by then she would have cooled off a bit," Mrs. Cheng told her. "And will be more open to admitting that she should have been upfront with you in the first place." She leaned across the counter, placing her hands on Marinette's shoulders. "I know that we've raised you to always be responsible and honest. But you shouldn't be taking the responsibility of everyone else's mistakes on top of your own. It's important to recognize when you did something wrong versus, say..."
"Versus when someone overreacts or they put you in a bad position in the first place," Mr. Dupain finished. "In this case, it's the latter." He smiled at Marinette. "It's a good lesson to learn, at least."
Marinette nodded. Her parents' words made her feel a lot better. "Yeah."
"And if you're busy or just need time to do your own things, it's always okay to say no. Even to your friends. And even to us and Madam Chamack," Mrs. Cheng added. "We don't want you to get overwhelmed and be sacrificing sleep or having your schoolwork suffer. That's your primary responsibility right now. Okay?"
Marinette smiled. School and sleep and saving Paris from supervillains, actually, but she couldn't let her parents know about that second part. Not until Hawkmoth was defeated, at least. "Okay."
"We're proud of you for coming to us with this," Mr. Dupain said, resting a hand on Marinette's shoulder. "We know that you want to help others as much as you can, but you have to remember to save some of that time and energy for Marinette, too. You can't help others as much if you're too worn out and spread thin and not taking care of yourself. It's okay to tell other people that they're putting too much pressure on you and to enforce your boundaries when they try to push or claim that something will be just the once. Looking after yourself will never be selfish, even if other people try to frame it that way. And if you ever need help yourself, it is more than okay to ask for it. You've given a lot to people around you, and helping is hardly a one-way street."
That was good for her to hear, Marinette thought as she burrowed into her parents' hug. Lately, sometimes taking time for herself had felt selfish somehow, even though she knew better. There was a lot of pressure on her to do the best in everything that she took on (and everything she was forced to take on), but even if she sometimes had superpowers, she was only human underneath it all. She would get overwhelmed and make mistakes and forget things, and that was okay.
She could finally breathe again.
a/n:...did this end up wandering off-track to address Marinette's tendency to get too caught up in helping others and overworking herself? Perhaps. But it was related! And I wanted Marinette's parents to actually give her useful advice for once. Marinette doesn't HAVE to be the bigger person all of the time, not when it'll get her blamed for other people's mistakes.
(I ended up deleting an additional scene/replacing it with the current last scene where Alya's mom comes to the bakery to talk to Marinette's mom and request a more specific list of how many times Marinette babysat for Nino and Alya to reimburse Marinette for her time, and then they end up comparing notes on Lila and the Mom Squad takes revenge, but it didn't really fit, so... have some parental advice instead.)
Like with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and is therefore complete! And as always, reviews make my day!