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Marinette's screams echoed through the hallways of the spacious mansion, more shrill than Adrien was used to hearing. Curious, he scooped Plagg into a pocket and went to investigate. Looking over the top of the grand staircase, Adrien spotted Gabriel, head down, fingers gripping the space at the top of his nose, glasses in hand. It wasn't the first time Marinette had evoked such an expression from their father, but it was the first time Adrien had seen him look so exhausted because of it. He looked as if he regretted everything in life. Adrien slowly made his way down, careful to make noise just in case their father was still in a bad mood and didn't take well to being startled.
"What's happened to Marinette?" Adrien asked.
"Your mother and I decided that Marinette will begin piano lessons next week. As you can tell, your sister was not pleased."
"So, she doesn't want extra lessons," Adrien said, his tone flat. It was obvious that Marinette enjoyed her free time, and it wasn't as if she didn't use it constructively. She was more likely to be drawing basic clothing designs or portraits of her friends and family, or helping the housekeepers and chefs with their work than she was to lay about. It was the reason why Adrien was placed into additional lessons, to keep him occupied and out of trouble. Marinette already stayed out of trouble, so Adrien didn't understand why she needed to begin something she didn't want.
"Her exact words," said Gabriel, "were that she didn't 'want to be stuck in no stupid stinky lessons' she doesn't like, as we did to Adrien.'" Gabriel lifted his head, fixing his son with an expression that was clearly displeased. "Anything you want to share, son?"
Adrien shrugged. "Nothing I haven't already expressed." He cast his eyes around, debating between searching outside, searching downstairs, or searching either of the two floors upstairs. "She's just the only one who listens to me. I'll go find her, Father, don't worry."
"Your mother and I… We mean well. We just want you to be well-rounded individuals."
"I know," said Adrien. "But sometimes I wonder if it's okay to be a little lopsided too." With that, he began walking towards the back of the house, through the dining room and formal living room and into the kitchen. Perhaps one of the chefs had seen her, or given her a sweet to stave off her tantrum?
Marinette wasn't in the kitchen. Or the garden. She wasn't hiding in any of her favorite closets to sulk, and she wasn't under the pile of blankets in the movie room. Adrien stuck his head into her bedroom for a cursory glance, just to confirm that she was not in there anywhere, then looked over his own room just in case. Truthfully, there were just so many rooms and so much space in the mansion that Adrien could search every room twice over before he found Marinette. In the past, he has searched every room and had started a second round before he found her beneath a pile of blankets he had already searched twice.
It looked like today was going to be another one of those days.
"Marinette?" Adrien called desperately. "Princess, come on, just talk to me, please?" He throws himself onto her bed during his second round, feeling exhausted. "I'm running out of places to look, Plagg."
"Just let the girl rest." Plagg hovered a few inches over Adrien's head. "Just let the girl sit by herself for a bit. She'll come around. At the very least, she'll get hungry and go looking for some cheese."
"Marinette is not as fond of cheese as you are."
"Trust me, no one is as fond of cheese as I am."
Adrien snorted a laugh but stayed laying down. "Father really messed up this time. Especially if he told her she was going to have lessons instead of asking her. I get he's our father and all, but sometimes it's nice to just be asked what you want, you know?"
Adrien sighed, eyes wandering around as he thought. Marinette's bedroom is full of shades of pink and cream, bright and lively and so completely Marinette that it doesn't feel overwhelming in the least. Her bedroom is sized similarly to Adrien's, in that it's entirely too large for one kid to inhabit alone. The bed is front and center beneath the windows overlooking the garden and clothed in deep magenta blankets and pale pastel sheets. There are matching drapes and oversized bows hold them open so that Marinette can see the sky both day and night. Fluffy cream colored rugs cover most of the floor, and several tables hold various crafts and creative activities. This should be where she ran to hide. If Marinette wasn't anywhere else, she was typically in her own room.
"...'s stupid," Adrien shot up, staring. That had been her voice… somewhere.
"What's stupid?" asked Adrien. "The piano? I dunno, I think it's kind of fun."
"I guess you can say Father made a bad decision telling you at the last minute." Adrien agreed. "You mind coming out of hiding, Princess? I could use a hug. I was scared I wouldn't find you." It was true as much as it was emotional manipulation, but Marinette didn't need to know that. A short moment later, Marinette's head appeared from beneath the bed. Her eyes were sleepy as if she had just awoken from a nap. She held her arms up in a silent plea for the promised hug.
"He d'n't ask," Marinette slurred her words as Adrien dragged her from beneath the bed. "Papa alw's ask 'n he d'n't ask 'n that hurt."
"Yeah, it does hurt not being asked what you want, doesn't it?" Adrien agreed. He just had this conversation an hour or so earlier. "But you know what else hurts? Your voice when you scream."
"Oh, yes, it does. I heard it all the way in my room over the sound of my piano practice. I got scared and had to go check on you."
"No, you d'n't."
"You didn't see it, but my ears bled, ask Plagg!"
Despite her drowsiness, Marinette giggled. Seeing that prompted Adrien into gently tickling the girl until she squirmed into wakefulness.
"Now. Is that all that's wrong? You just don't want no stinky piano lessons because Papa is stupid?'"
Marinette chewed at her bottom lip and Adrien knew she was considering her answer. He gave her the time she needed to think without coaxing her into answering prematurely. Adrien thought he knew why she was really upset, and he knew that it was mostly his fault for whining to Plagg so much when he knew Marinette paid attention to everything.
"What if Papa or Mama decides I need even more lessons? What if I end up with a lot of things to do and a schedule and no time for the things I want, or I don't see you anymore because we're both busy? I like deciding what I get to do. I like choosing when I do things."
"Having a schedule isn't all bad," Adrien admitted. "And I did decide some of the stuff I do. I like fencing, it's fun and I'm one of the best in my class. And I asked Mother and Father to send me to public school too."
"But you didn't ask to play piano. And you don't like learning Chinese. And you hate modeling."
"I don't hate modeling," said Adrien. "I'm just not fond of photoshoots. They're exhausting and long and I don't always understand what the photographer wants. I also don't like being paired with other people who want to fight for the spotlight, I don't care enough. But fashion shows are alright. I like the pace of those. And I'm thinking acting could be fun too."
"You still didn't ask to do it."
"I was also five when I started," Adrien snorted. He hugged his sister close and spoke softly. "You gotta at least try it, Princess. Maybe you won't like it. Maybe you'll be good at it. Maybe you'll learn that you like music but don't like the piano and want to start playing the trumpet or cello instead."
"If I don't like playing the piano can I quit?" Adrien sighed, just knowing that no matter what, this entire conversation was going to bite him back in the butt later.
"You'll have to ask Father, but maybe. You have to put in a real effort first. You can't quit after one lesson, Princess."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm paw-sitive." That sent Marinette into another fit of giggles.
"Okay, Kitty. I can't say no when you're being punny."
"Good," Adrien lifted his sister off of his lap and took her small hand in his. "Let's go clean up for dinner and apologize to Father, alright?" Marinette made a face but followed him obediently.
"I'm not sorry for calling him stupid," she admitted, "but I probably shouldn't have said it."