Nino put Marinette's flushed cheeks down to the heat of the ovens. The idea that she had rushed across the city from his house just to get back to her bakery in time, didn't even enter his mind. Her smile warmed her face as she handed over the bag of warm croissants.
"Are you just here for food or can you stay and let me beat you at video game for a while?" She teased.
"Actually, my feet just kinda brought me here. I was trying to figure out where I could take a friend," Nino shrugged.
"Are you trying to make Adrien become a regular person by taking him to places he's never been but totally should have by now again?" Marinette asked.
"No, but can you believe that guys never been to Starbucks? Like, it's not that great but damn," Nino shook his head in disappointment.
"Well he probably imports super caffeinated extra strength coffee to deal with his father's schedule as well as school," Marinette sighed.
"Yeah, poor dude..." Nino sighed too.
The both of them couldn't help feeling sorry for Adrien. Neither of them were going to have much of their childhood anymore what with their new responsibilities weighing on them, but they already had infanthood. From tots to teens they were free to play and laugh and learn in school. They had memories and games with people who were still in their class. Classmates that had memories of them too, being care free and foolish. But Adrien? All Adrien had were paintings of his family, his family that was falling apart, and Chloe, who he didn't talk to as much anymore. Time had now given him friends, Nino mainly, since Marinette didn't really talk to him, and Alya was just his friend's girlfriend, but at least it was more than Chloe. They were there if he needed them, ready to spend time with him and laugh and joke with him, even if now they had less time available to do it. Responsibilities came first. Tikki and Wayzz came first. But he still didn't like talking about his childhood. Probably because he was modelling then too.
His father always had him modelling.
Nino shook off the pity that Adrien would never want him to feel and flashed her a grin. "Hey, if you were visiting Paris for the first time, where would you go?"
Marinette folded her arms and rested them on the desk between them with a shrug. "personally, I'd go for the hot spots. the tourist traps. It's cliché for a reason, right?"
"right, but what about afterwards?" Nino asked.
"I guess I'd go to the botanical gardens. It's got a lot of flowers, and a lot of pretty things like butterflies. And ladybugs," she said, pointedly.
"Ladybug lives in the botanical gardens?" Nino asked in surprised, not quite thinking.
"how would I know where Ladybug lives? Although it'd make sense. Lots of ladybug friends in the gardens, right?" She smirked.
Unheard to Nino, hidden in Marinette's apron pocket, Tikki giggled to herself. Nino was too busy thinking to see Marinette's hand edge down to scratch the kwamis back affectionately.
"right… how much is the aquarium these days?" Nino asked.
"you give someone help and they throw it back in your face," Marinette smiled at Tikki as Tikki's eyes sparkled up at her.
Nino's widened with alarm. "no – no I didn't, I just meant, I mean-"
Marinette looked back at him, and laughed, "I'm only teasing Nino! it's ok! I don't know how much the aquarium costs, probably about twenty euros."
His jaw dropped. "that's steep!"
"yeah, but what's inside is worth it, right?" she shrugged.
"is it though?" he wrinkled his nose.
Marinette fought the urge to roll her eyes. She was sure that wherever Wayzz was hiding right now, he was doing it for her. Fortunately, Alya had walked in and was ready with an answer that didn't involve Marinette risking revealing too much by reminding Nino why he was doing this in the first place.
"why don't you take Adrien? I'm sure he's never been since his father literally never lets him outside, and he'd probably pay for both of you," Alya winked.
Marinette actually did rolled her eyes this time, but she smiled too. The brunette was always a little filter less with her suggestions but Marinette had to admit sometimes it made her laugh.
"don't be a gold digger Alya," she warned.
"I'm not! I'm saying Nino should be," Alya grinned.
Nino's cheeks had gone pink, but he pressed on firmly, "I'm not going to bother Adrien with this! I'm going with a friend anyway."
Alya pressed a hand against her chest and pretended to be offended, in almost the exact way that Chat Noir had twice that morning. "you have friends outside of us and Adrien?"
"ha. Ha. ha! Hilarious," Nino said, sarcastically.
Marinette chuckled to herself. she was aware that all three of the people in that room had, at one time or another, been in possession of a kwami. All of them had friends outside of the four of them, but their friends happened to live in their pockets. Had she known about Plagg, it probably would have made her laugh harder.
"Nino's taking a friend to the aquarium to see the seahorses and the turtles and what not-"
Marinette placed such subtle emphasis on the word turtles that everyone in that room but Alya got it, simply because they were in on the joke. Otherwise it would have slipped flawlessly under the radar. Nino's heart beat faster in alarm, instantly wondering if she'd seen Wayzz under his hat and not said anything but was bringing it up not in some subtle way as a warning, even though that made no sense whatsoever. Then Marinette continued her sentence with no sign of hesitation and he realised he was being foolish.
"- So he can't play video games with us today. Isn't that a shame?"
"Such a shame. Unless she's a pretty girl," Alya grinned.
Alarm bells went off in Nino's head. "What?!"
"If you've got a "friend" we're not allowed to meet that you're taking to the aquarium, alone, just the two of you, it's gonna be a girl. It's gonna be a crush. I hope she's pretty," Alya grinned.
His cheeks flushed red as he blushed deep trying to stammer through to his point that there was no girl because he liked her. He just... couldn't. "I - that's not - this isn't - I don't-"
"Aw he's more flustered than you around Adrien, he must really like her!" Alya giggled.
"I - no - you - you-me - meoo-" Nino squeaked.
Alya gasped in delight, "Meoo? Meoo?! Oh, you're so cute!"
"MARK MY WORDS LAHIFFE, I'M GONNA FIND OUT HER NAME IF ITS THE LAST THING I DO!"
Nino held his hat down with his hand as he hurried out of the door. Alya's voice followed him down the street and made him blush so much harder that his cheeks were practically glowing. Wayzz groaned as he clung onto Nino's hair and felt sick to his stomach at the jostling.
Marinette picked up the baking tray full of Rena Rouge themed cakes that her father had just finished baking and slid them into the display case. They were orange with chocolate chip eats and a black triangle with rounded edges for a nose.
"It's mean to pick on him like that, especially when you know he likes you," Marinette warned.
"Yeah, I know, but it's so funny," Alya grinned over her shoulder.
"Meanie," Marinette chuckled.
"I'll make it up to him later," Alya shrugged. She lifted a fox-themed cupcake from the display and examined it from below, smiling at the Rena Rouge logo on the cake case. Marinette smiled to herself as she slipped Alya's money into the till. Alya grinned at her. "Ready to eat the dust me and Luigi leave behind?"
"Ha, yeah, like you and Luigi could beat Princess Peach and me!" Marinette scoffed.
"Oh bring on that rainbow road and let me prove you wrong!" Alya said.
She took a dramatic bite of the cake as she turned to head towards the stairs to the games console. Marinette trusted Alya to go upstairs and set up the game console and chairs by herself. She'd eat her cake and move the sofa to the side, so they could sit next to one another and hit each other when the other threw blue shells.
Blue shells, incidentally, lined the path between the reception area and the first set of tanks at the aquarium. Along the room there was limited lighting. The deeper in they went the darker things got, and the only lights came from the tanks. Nino dared to move Wayzz from under his hat to his shoulder and made a mental note to start wearing jackets and pockets. For now, though the low light and distracting sharks made it easy to keep Wayzz out of sight. Soft blue lit a wall that was almost entirely made of glass and filled with sharks. They passed tubes lit up in red, yellow, purple and green filled with seahorses bobbing up and down, who's sleepy glow was the only light in the room.
Apart from the quiet whale music and the bubbling of tank filters, the only sounds were footsteps and soft voices brimming with wonder. Every face was watching the fish in so much awe no one noticed the damp and stale fishy smell hanging thinly in the air. Especially when they entered the touch area. It was a large and fairly shallow (for an aquarium) circle tank in the centre of the room, with a sloping ramp curling around it to let people at different heights line along the tank, although there were boxes to step up onto along the flat ground.
Wayzz curled closer against Nino's neck, trying to stay out of sight here. This room had more visitors in it than any other in the area, so was more dangerous, especially with dozens of kids rushing around their legs. Both of them hurried through this area until they found what they had been looking for.
Paris aquarium had a tank full of turtles that took up an entire room and had walls of glass to peer through. Turtles roamed freely inside, glistening in the shimmering light as they went. Some of them were longer than Nino and made him feel small but filled him with awe. They moved with grace and dignity, like they were full of ancient wisdom. Wayzz's jaw dropped.
Nino smiled at the gasp from beside his ear. Quietly- because he felt foolish talking seemingly to himself in public - he asked, "Can you see ok? You can always sit on my hat if you want."
"I can see very well Master Nino. Thank you," Wayzz said.
Nino flinched. "Yeah I've been thinking about that..."
"Pardon me master, but about what?" Wayzz asked, not looking away from the turtles.
"About you calling me master," Nino said.
"I don't wish to call you dude," Wayzz said.
"It's all cool little buddy, listen, what if you call me Monsieur Nino?" he suggested.
Wayzz's eyebrows (did he have eyebrows?) furrowed and made him look confused. "Monsieur Nino?"
"Yeah! It's pretty much the same, but it sounds more equal," Nino said, uncertainly.
Wayzz looked up at Nino. in the blue light he looked even wiser, "will that make you more comfortable?"
"It will if it makes you more comfortable," Nino nodded.
"Then I will endeavour to remember that," Wayzz promised.
Nino grinned. "Awesome sauce!"
Wayzz gave him a baffled look. this boy was compassionate and smart and kind, and yet he said things like awesome sauce and called everyone dude. The two things seemed like polar opposites to Wayzz, and yet, there they were in one boy. In his master – no, in Monsieur Nino. he wasn't Master Fu, that was obvious, and yet he could be just as good, if not better than him. if given a real chance. Wayzz moved from his shoulder up onto the brim on his baseball cap. He was maybe an inch closer to the glass, but it was the tiny act of trust that made Nino smile.
they ended up staying in this area, with Wayzz staring at the turtle tank until the aquarium shut. It gave Nino time to sit on a bench behind him, leaving his hat on the shelf like area that children could sit on to watch the turtles, to keep Wayzz hidden. Nino took a photo of the tank just as a turtle moved by, and spent a good hour trying to draw Wayzz in. with his lack of drawing skills, it wasn't expertly a wonderful drawing. He looked like he'd been added in in felt tip, but Nino knew if he kept practicing he could get to Master Fu's level. But since he didn't have a lot of time between home, friends, school, DJing, and now guardian lessons, he was keenly aware that his school books were going to end up looking more like Nathanael's soon.
Wayzz didn't mind hiding under Nino's hat so much on the walk home. He was beginning to feel a little more comfortable with this baffling boy after today. It'd been years since he'd seen turtles like him. he'd almost forgotten there were others. Nino gave him time to remember he wasn't alone. There were kwamis, there was Ladybug and Chat Noir, and there were turtles.
And there was Nino.
"Sorry I wasted your time today, Monsieur Nino," Wayzz sighed as they wandered into his apartment block.
"What'd you mean? We had an awesome day!" Nino grinned.
"We just stayed in the aquarium for hours, staring at the turtles!" Wayzz argued.
"Yeah but you enjoyed it. Time spent enjoying yourself is not wasted," Nino said, stubbornly.
Wayzz smiled. maybe the boy was wise. And then the door shut, and they climbed into the lift, and while they were alone, Nino suddenly asked, "Do you think I could pull off cargo pants?"
And Wayzz thought, maybe he wasn't so wise. "I'm sorry, what are they?"
"They're baggy trousers with big pockets. D'you think I'd look good in them?" Nino asked.
"I honestly don't know. Why, if I may ask?" Wayzz asked.
"I'm thinking you can't stay under my hat."
"So baggy pockets on my leg would be safer and more comfortable for you, right?"
"I believe so, if you do. But what if you don't- what did you say?" Wayzz asked.
"Pull them off?" Nino offered.
Wayzz nodded, "Ah, yes, that."
"Then I'll suffer. If I try wearing a jacket I'll forget within a week, or it'll get too hot and I'll get dehydrated, but I'll force myself to carry on. After all I can't carry a bag everywhere,"
"I don't see why not," Wayzz said.
"Its not the social norm, people would stare," Nino explained.
"Ah. We certainly don't want that," Wayzz agreed.
"That leaves cargo pants," Nino said.
"You will wear them for a nobel reason. Those who care for you won't care what you wear. Some may even find it of use," Wayzz said.
"I'm gonna be a human purse. I can't wait," Nino grinned.
Wayzz chuckled to himself. Nino was imagining Alya pushing her phone charger and things into his chest for him to pocket and keep safe while she went racing after akumas on her bike. It was funny to him. All those months she spent gathering information on them, and he'd still know more by the end of the week than she did.
"Shall we try mixing one more time, before we start studying?" Nino asked.
"Sounds good," Wayzz smiled.
Nino dashed to the DJ booth. He dropped a scratched old LP onto the deck, so it wouldn't matter if Wayzz scratched it falling over. He set himself on the edge of the LP, and centred himself carefully, to stop himself falling.
"Ready?" Nino asked.
"Ready," Wayzz nodded.
If you've ever seen the end of Night at The Museum with the little Cowboy and his Roman boyfriend dancing on the record, you could imagine how Wayzz was dancing. Swinging his hips back and forth, low and wide with the movement of the record to avoid falling. Nino laughed proudly as Wayzz managed to stay upright.
"You rock little dude!" He beamed.
Wayzz beamed back, pleased, but the mild distraction was too much, and he fell. Nino rushed to help him back to his feet. Both were laughing.
From where he sat on the rooftop across the road watching the scene, Chat Noir smiled to himself. He had chosen wisely, and his friend was happy because of it.
Things were going to start getting a lot more interesting from now on.