The next morning, Gabriel's driver stopped outside of the bakery to pick up Marinette. He heard Adrien's sharp inhale beside him and glanced up through the window. The bakery door opened and she walked out with her father, both of them carrying objects. Marinette clutched a bundle of... was that metal poles and canvas? Her father held two boxes in his meaty hands. But that wasn't what caught his eye.
Marinette was dressed in black capris with red polka dots on the cuffs. She wore a deep burgundy camisole with a sheer black overlay shirt covered in opaque spots, in addition to bits of red lace that edged the bottom. She carried a Ladybug theme beaded purse with tassels hanging below it, reminiscent of the American Roarin' Twenties style. Her father opened the door and she ducked her head inside.
"Good morning," she greeted with a smile. "We managed to dig up some more comfortable chairs." She motioned to the bundle in her arms. His driver had already exited to open the trunk. Marinette dropped the folded chairs in and slid beside Adrien. Her father handed her the two boxes. "Thanks, Papa!" she exclaimed as he wished them good luck and to have fun, while also thanking Gabriel for looking after her. The designer nodded and replied in kind, and then they were off.
"You look great, Marinette," Adrien complimented, the first words out of his mouth.
True to form, Marinette flushed under the praise and stammered out a thanks.
Gabriel quickly agreed with his son's assessment, and added a few compliments on top. "Did you make that yourself?" he asked.
She nodded. "I thought perhaps I could dress up to reflect the type of merchandise we're selling," she said. "I have a Chat Noir outfit planned for tomorrow, too."
The blissful look of adoration on his son's face told him all he needed to know about Adrien's opinion of that statement.
"And your purse?"
She flushed, unlooping the strap from around her shoulder and held it out to Gabriel. "I made this also. You can examine this one if you want."
He took it, eyeing the beading with critical care. She had improved her already stellar skills under the short time, helping him with the designs, and it showed in her latest creation. "This is very detailed, Miss Marinette," he praised, "how long did it take you to make?"
And without any further prodding on his part, she launched into a long-winded explanation of her plans, designs, and obstacles she had to overcome to create the purse. He occasionally interrupted to clarify things or to add suggestions for future endeavors, but for the most part let her gush about her passion. Adrien sat and watched them both with a large smile on his face.
As they neared the convention center, the conversation faded and Adrien pointed to the boxes. "What's in there?" he asked.
"Oh! Well, Papa wasn't sure how much downtime we were going to get, so he packed us some snacks and a lunch."
Adrien's eyes lit up. "Any quiche?" he exclaimed, practically bouncing in his seat.
"Of course," Marinette replied with a giggle. "Papa remembered how much you enjoyed the last one. He was so pleased."
When had his son ever sampled foods from this bakery? He couldn't recall anytime that Adrien would have been into the shop. He didn't object to it, but he found himself lost in his thoughts about what else he might not know about his son's activities.
Argh, if only he could just get the Miraculouses already, then he could fix all of his mistakes and move on.
The arrival at the conference center snapped him out of his melancholy thoughts, but the damage was done. His mood had considerably soured in the short span, and he knew it wouldn't be improved by sitting around all day surrounded by facsimiles of the heroes.
His bodyguard quickly hefted the folded chairs in his arms. Gabriel gathered up his bags and notebooks. Marinette held the metal cashbox and a rolled up piece of fabric.
"What's that?" Adrien inquired, pointing to the roll that had escaped unnoticed until now.
She smiled. "You'll just have to wait and find out," she teased. And Gabriel hid a smile, allowing their banter to cheer him slightly. This girl was growing on him more and more and he hoped that she would be able to successfully distract Adrien.
His son scoffed and grabbed the bakery boxes instead. "Fine, keep your secrets."
"I think I shall," she returned. "I have many of them."
His son leaned in close with a wink, drawing a surprised blush on the young girl's face. "As do I," he said in a low voice. "I am a man of mystery."
Before she could squeak out a reply, he straightened and followed Gabriel's bodyguard inside, leaving the flustered young girl in his wake. She jumped when he cleared his throat and hurried after Adrien. Gabriel brought up the rear.
When they arrived at their booth, Marinette unfurled the rolled up fabrics to reveal her secret: not one piece of fabric, but two. A red and black long rectangle that she draped over as a tablecloth and another canvas-like piece that read "Charms, Accessories, and Totes". She giggled as she held it up.
"I thought we should advertise what we're selling," she explained.
Adrien beamed at her and Gabriel nodded in approval.
"That was a smart decision, Miss Marinette."
"It's a pun," Adrien exclaimed, and Gabriel did a double take as his son gleefully pointed out the section. "C.A.T. Was that intentional?"
Oh dear lord, he hoped not. One obnoxious punmaster in his life was more than eno-
Whelp, so much for that.
"I thought Chat Noir would appreciate it and we could use it to lure him down to our booth," she explained.
"Oh," Adrien remarked, "I'm certain he would. It's purrfect."
Oh no, not his son, too. Puns were only good when he was allowed to make them. Preferably alone in his lair so no one could witness his spectacular play on words. He turned away from the two kids and began to set up the different card reader machines and fiddle with the settings on the hotspot on his tablet.
They set up in a short time, with his bodyguard and the teenagers hauling in merchandise. From the sounds of things as they giggled on their way in, Marinette had tripped over something again and Adrien had swooped in and caught her at the last minute. They sheepishly set the boxes down beside him and he got to work arranging the items in the best manner to display their wares.
He dismissed his bodyguard for the rest of the day, knowing that neither of them would need him in this venue and should he decide to sneak away and akumatize someone, he didn't need to escape the prying eyes of three people. He hoped if it came to that that the two teens in front of him wouldn't notice his absence for a while. If they were sufficiently distracted.
And then the doors open, and the people flooded in. Gabriel took a seat in his chair, pulled out his tablet, and began to conduct some business for his company as the convention goers streamed in around him. Adrien and Marinette struck up a friendly enough conversation with each other – something about school – and did their best to attract people to their booth.
After an hour or so, the initial rush died down. The teens had had plenty of interested nibbles, but had yet to make a single sale. It was a bit disheartening to watch. Gabriel knew that they could go all weekend and not sell a single item. That was just the bad luck of merchandising sometimes.
Adrien eyed the boxes. "Care for a mid-morning snack?" he offered. Marinette smiled.
"I'm not too hungry just yet," she said. "But I am thirsty. I'm going to go get us some drinks. Think you can handle things until I return?" she asked.
"Of course," he replied. Marinette grabbed her purse and soon vanished into the crowd.
They spent a few moments in silence. Adrien staring out at the crowd of people and Gabriel attempting to figure out a way to delicately bring up his son's relationship with Marinette. He couldn't think of an adequate way of phrasing his questions without sounding direct and nosy. Subtlety was never his strong suit.
A flurry of commotion caught both of their attentions before Gabriel could come up with a topic of casual conversation. Both father and son looked over to see an enormous crowd of people swarming a figure in red. They drew closer, and Gabriel recognized a cosplayer in a Ladybug outfit.
No way. Not a cosplayer. That was Ladybug herself, wandering through the convention hall.
Adrien perked up, his hand automatically raising to smooth his already perfect hair. Gabriel's expression darkened at the sudden change in his son and scowled at the approaching red hero, hoping she would take the hint in his icy expression and pass by without a glance.
No such luck.
"Oh, isn't this the cutest little booth," she exclaimed, immediately spotting them and making a beeline toward the two of them. Adrien beamed. Gabriel suppressed a snarl.
"Thank you, Ladybug," Adrien exclaimed.
"It's good to see you again, Adrien," she said, and her gaze slid over to him. "And you too, Mr. Agreste."
"Ladybug," he said, inclining his head in a polite nod. After all, despite his disdain toward the heroes, he had to maintain the illusion that he was a huge fan. At least this confirmed that one of the heroes was in attendance.
"Did you design all of these yourself?" she inquired, and Gabriel didn't know if she was asking him or Adrien. She was staring at Adrien, but surely she knew that his son was no designer.
Thankfully, Adrien answered for them both. "Father designed the majority of the pieces, and my friend Marinette and I helped make them."
"Oh? That explains why they're so innovative." She picked up a dainty cloche hat and examined the stitching on it – black thread on pale blue felt detailing the erratic flight of an embroidered ladybug. Simple, classy, and elegant, with a hint of whimsical. Typical for Gabriel Agreste's fashions. "This is amazing work. Where is your friend Marinette?"
"She went to go get drinks for us," Adrien explained. "I'll tell her you stopped by. She'll be disappointed she missed you."
"Ah, well then I might have to stop by again just to see if any of these items remain. I might pick up one or two for myself." She set the hat back down.
"Are you going to be here the whole weekend?" Adrien asked, breathless and wide-eyed.
She hummed and nodded. His son glowed with happiness. Gabriel wanted to strangle the heroine right then and there. "But I won't be always in my Ladybug suit." She glanced behind her at the sizable crowd, many of which were holding cell phones up and snapping video and pictures. "I want to enjoy everything this event has to offer."
"You'll be in your civilian form?"
Gabriel listened closer here, as well, as Adrien breathed out the question and leaned forward. He didn't want to miss any hints that could unravel Ladybug's identity.
"Of course," she answered. "I can't very well put on a hat and coat and blend in." She ducked close to Adrien with a sultry wink. "The mask would still give me away."
Adrien giggled – giggled – and Gabriel never wanted someone to both simultaneously vanish and get closer to him than at this moment. He was still too far to snatch the earrings, and he wouldn't dare do so in front of so many witnesses (with cameras!) and yet his hands twitched, itching to transform even if to only get that blasted hero away from his son.
"I should probably get going," Ladybug said, and Gabriel couldn't agree with her more. "I hope your booth does well this weekend," she said, and this time she fixed Gabriel with a kind smile. "But if they're your designs, I daresay they will. You're my favorite designer, after all. I'm glad to hear you're one of our biggest fans."
And with that, she vanished back into the crowd of people as they surged around her. Gabriel blinked a few times before her final words registered in his mind. He was her favorite designer? But... did that mean that she was into fashion as well? Should he be narrowing his search down to fledgling teenagers with a penchant for designing? Or did she simply say that because of her infatuation with Adrien? No, she had looked at him when she said that, not his son. That had to mean that she was interested in fashion. This could be helpful. He hurried to jot down his thoughts in tablet, instantly syncing them with his files at home.
The crowd disappeared, no doubt trailing after Ladybug, and soon the room quieted once more. Adrien sighed at the table, reverently placing the hat that Ladybug had picked up and moving it near the back. "Just in case she comes back and wants to buy this," he explained to Gabriel when the elder man raised an eyebrow.
Gabriel wanted to retort that it was unlikely the heroine would return, and he shouldn't waste a potential sale should someone else come along wanting it, but just then Marinette reappeared, panting slightly and holding out a paper tray with cups.
"Sorry I took so long," she gasped, setting the tray down on the table and lifting the cups out one by one. "There was a huge commotion in here and it was so crowded I couldn't get in at all. I had to wait until everyone left." She squinted as she read off something on the side of one cup before holding it out to Gabriel. "Darjeeling white tea," she said, handing him a covered paper cup. Steam wafted out of the tiny opening. He accepted with a surprised thanks, astonished she knew his preferred drink.
"Ladybug showed up," Adrien explained as she peeked at another cup.
"Really?" she exclaimed. "Wow! I can't believe I missed it. Did you see her?"
"Yeah." And there was the dreamy sigh. Gabriel wanted to slap his son upside the head so he would see sense, especially after he spotted Marinette's crestfallen expression that escaped his son's notice. He was so obtuse it practically hurt to watch.
"Oh," she replied in a subdued tone. She handed another cup to Adrien. "Coffee with lots of cream and sugar," she said (and Gabriel suppressed a wince at the sickeningly sweet concoction his son adored) before grabbing the last cup out and stowing the paper tray safely away from the table.
Adrien smiled as he sipped his coffee. "She stopped by our booth. She said your work was amazing."
That earned a tiny smile from Marinette. "Really? But it was all your father's designs," she said.
"Don't sell yourself short," Gabriel spoke up, feeling the urge to propel this young woman into a higher standing in his son's eyes. "You wouldn't have nearly as many items to display today if it wasn't for your expert assistance."
"Father's right, Marinette," Adrien said, and Gabriel mentally celebrated as his minor plan succeeded. "Your work is fantastic!"
"But we haven't sold anything yet," she lamented. "It must not be that good."
Adrien set his cup on the table and placed his hands upon her shoulders. "Cheer up, Marinette. We've only been here for two hours. Most of the convention goers probably haven't even had time to register and check in yet. We have all weekend."
"You're right," she said, straightening up.
"Besides," Adrien added with a wink, "we wouldn't want you to get akumatized by Hawkmoth now, would we?"
She giggled as Gabriel nearly choked on his tea. "What do you think my akuma would be?" she asked in a teasing lilt. "The Cashier? Making sure you check out the merchandise at the convention?"
"Con-vict. It's criminal to leave without buying anything."
"That's a pretty good one, Adrien," she said, her giggles turning into full laughter. Gabriel set his cup down on the ground so he didn't crush it in his carefully concealed annoyance. He desperately wanted to interrupt the two.
"Thanks," Adrien said with a smile. "I'm a pun-master," he added.
"You could give Chat Noir a run for his money."
"A pun-off," Adrien agreed. "I would win, of course. I could take on that cat any day."
"Careful," Marinette chided. "You'll catch the attention of Hawkmoth and then he would feel obligated to join in. You've seen the names of some of his akumas."
"Pfft," Adrien said, waving a hand to dismiss her. "I could take them both on and win."
"Oh? That's quite the arrogant statement, Adrien Agreste," she shot right back, her hand on her hip. "I didn't think you were the type."
The cheeky grin remained. "I know when I can win something, and if it's a pun-off, I'm your man."
His words sunk in almost immediately and Marinette dropped the confident attitude and morphed back into the stammering flushed teenager. "O-of course, you probably would because you're amazing at everything, I mean, but you already knew that of course," she babbled.
The older designer's sanity was saved by the arrival of a patron, who immediately gushed over their wares and the fact that Ladybug personally stopped by the booth. Word spread quickly, it would appear.
"Ooh, I'm going to buy those gloves over there," she said, pointing at some jet-black gloves with lime green stitching and tiny delicate golden bows at the wrists.
After she left, Adrien turned to Marinette in glee. "Our first sale!" he exclaimed. She beamed at him and they both celebrated. Gabriel smiled at their joy.
"Congratulations," he praised with sincerity. They both turned to him.
"Thank you, Father," Adrien exclaimed.
"Yes, thank you, Mr. Agreste," Marinette chimed in.
That first sale seemed to be the key that unlocked the rest of the people around them. Not too long after the lady left, several more people swarmed to the counter, all propelled by news of Ladybug personally stopping by their booth to see what all the fuss was about. Gabriel wasn't too particularly pleased that the fans only stopped by because of Ladybug, but he kept quiet as his son and his friend efficiently sold item after item. Ladybug was the hook that drew customers in, but Gabriel knew it was their superior quality merchandise that made them commit to a purchase.
The two teens worked in perfect tandem, and if Gabriel didn't know any better, he would suspect these two had been partners their whole lives. Were they really that close in school? Adrien greeted the people with an award-winning smile and deferred all technical questions about their fashion decisions to Marinette, who answered them expertly. Gabriel thought he would have to answer a couple of questions on cleaning or other stuff, but Marinette dealt with everything perfectly. The only thing Gabriel did was handle the money and stepped in once or twice when the kids weren't sure about pricing.
He still had plenty of opportunities to watch as Adrien craned his neck around the convention hall, straining to catch a glimpse of Ladybug. He noticed how the boy carefully studied each girl that approached. The excessive amount of attention he paid to them (well, excessive to Gabriel's sharp eyes, but to anyone else they just passed it off as normal celebrity kindness) added to the flushed, starry-eyed expressions and more often than not, resulted in a sale.
And he guarded the blue cloche hat with a ferocious possessiveness. When Marinette lifted it off the rack to allow a lady to examine it closer, Adrien kindly but firmly plucked it from her hands and replaced it, explaining that it was reserved and unfortunately unavailable for sale.
Marinette's frown of disapproval mirrored Gabriel's, and when the lady left empty-handed, she rounded on her friend, saving Gabriel the trouble of having to chastise his son.
"What was that about? That lady wanted to buy that hat," she exclaimed.
"It's reserved, sorry."
"You never told me that. We could have packed it away earlier to make space for other items. Who bought it?"
Adrien studiously avoided her eyes. "She hasn't bought it yet," he said. "But Ladybug said she wanted to."
Marinette closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Gabriel wondered what the meek girl might do. After all, she wouldn't really jeopardize her friendship with her crush, would she?
"So you haven't sold it yet," she clarified, her voice low and deadly and for some reason Gabriel wanted to step back from her even though he was already seated. "You wasted a perfectly good opportunity to sell something on the off-chance that Ladybug would come back. Is that what you're telling me?"
"She said she liked it." Adrien either didn't notice or wasn't affected by her icy tone. Gabriel wouldn't put either possibility past his son at this point.
"So you think that Ladybug, who is so adamant about keeping her identity secret, would come in here and purchase a one-of-a-kind hat and wear it in her civilian form?"
"No one else knows that," Adrien said.
"Except you, your father, and whoever else happened to be here when she said she liked it, plus anyone that might have captured that moment on camera. Except for them, you mean?"
"It's not that many people."
"She won't even divulge her identity to her partner, do you really think she would slip up around you?" Adrien was silent. "The first rule of selling is you actually have to sell things. If I had a euro for every time someone told my parents that they would come back and purchase something but we never saw them again, I could buy my parents' bakery and send them away on an early retirement to the countryside. And here's something else for you to think about. What if that woman you just declined the sale to was Ladybug in her civilian form, huh?"
Adrien blanched and Gabriel choked on his drink. Ladybug... civilian form... was that her? It took every ounce of willpower he possessed to not immediately launch himself in pursuit of that woman. Fortunately, no one appeared to notice his minor heart attack. Mostly because his own son appeared to be having a similar freak out at the table.
"C-civilian form?" he stammered, his face pale.
"Yeah, unless you think that she would come over as Ladybug, purchase the hat as Ladybug, and then proceed to wear it around Paris."
Thankfully, another round of customers approached, successfully distracting both of the fuming teens. Gabriel slowly got his breathing under control as he vowed to keep a more careful eye upon the patrons. He noticed the other vendors glaring at the sudden crowd around their booth. Why didn't he think of this earlier? Irate street vendors would make perfect akuma fodder. He glanced around, wondering if he could slip away enough and akumatize someone. Maybe... he pressed a finger to his lips. Maybe if Ladybug showed more favoritism to this booth, that would further anger the other vendors. He would definitely have to keep an open mind and a watchful eye on his surroundings.
He couldn't let an opportunity to grab the Miraculouses escape, after all.
After the next group of customers left and the sales had been sorted out, Adrien stalked around the table. "I'm getting hungry, and it's close to lunch. I'll go get us the drinks this time," he called out behind his back as he strode away, his shoulders squared in anger.
"Ugh," Marinette released a huff of irritation, flopping down on the folding chair. It flexed alarmingly under her sudden weight, but the girl appeared not to notice. She fiddled with something on the table.
"I know my son hasn't had any real life experience selling anything before today, but perhaps you were a little bit harsh on him," Gabriel spoke up, lifting his eyes from his tablet. He had resumed poking around on it while the teens concentrated on their sales and kept their irritation with each other in check. He closed the map of the convention hall which he had been studying, trying to find spots to easily transform and escape notice of the crowd.
She squeaked and flipped around, and this time the chair did collapse. Marinette flailed for any sort of handhold, latching onto the edge of the tablecloth. It slid easily off of the table. The chair deposited the girl in a tangle of limbs and cloth onto the hard floor. Gabriel shot to his feet immediately, a million scenarios flying through his mind of him standing in the bakery explaining to the distraught owners how he accidentally killed their only daughter.
A groan of pain sounded from beneath the cloth and as Gabriel knelt down beside the lump, the fabric moved and a head peeked out. Flaming cheeks greeted him.
"Are you hurt?" he demanded.
"Just my pride," she admitted. "I'm pretty clumsy normally."
"I didn't mean to startle you," he said, offering a hand. She waved him off and rolled over onto her side. "Did you forget I was here?"
"Maybe," came the low mumble of a reply.
"Oh." He hadn't expected her to answer in the affirmative – the question was more rhetorical than anything. Apparently his skills of stealth were greater than he previously believed. Maybe he could sneak away and akumatize someone.
Or maybe she was too distracted from her argument with her crush to notice anything else.
Marinette picked herself up off the ground and dusted her clothes, checking for rips and tears, while he replaced the tablecloth and sign and fixed the chair. She sat back down in it, sheepishly glancing over to him as he settled back in his own chair. "I was a bit mean to Adrien, wasn't I?" she asked in a quiet voice. "I don't know what came over me."
Jealousy, he almost said, for he knew the different shades of that monster well enough to relate. He thought for a moment. She took his silence as his normal cold self.
"Sorry to have bothered you," she said.
"I'm here to supervise," he answered. "But I won't interfere with his decisions. I admit that I find you're a good influence on my son." More so than his other choices of friends and one that he hoped would drive out the other hero-influence of Adrien's desires.
"I just don't see why that hat matters," she said, and Gabriel refrained from grimacing. He wasn't exactly a heart-to-heart kind of guy, least of all with a love-struck teenage girl, but it appeared the dam had burst and there was no stopping the deluge. "It's a hat that Ladybug said looked cool, right?" He wondered if she expected him to answer, but she shook her head and continued on. He eyed his tablet and mentally weighed the risks of attempting to grab it without drawing her attention. "But that doesn't mean she wanted to buy it. She was just being nice, right? She must have done that to every booth here. Stopping by and commenting on their merchandise. She's trying to get people to spend money and make this convention a success. I don't know why everyone is so fixated on her opinions. It's not like she's a fashion expert. Why does he care about her ideas more?"
She was starting to display more of those delightful negative emotions. Such a shame that he had no akumas nearby to take advantage of the situation.
And just like that, the emotions faded. He blinked at the sudden change.
"Oh, who am I kidding, of course everyone values her opinion. She's even got your approval."
Huh? What was she talking about, his approval? Ohhhh right, his cover story.
"Only because she's saved my life previously. Chat Noir, too," he felt obligated to add. "Of course I am a huge fan of the two heroes." He was pleased that he managed to spit those words out without a single grimace or sneer. He mentally patted himself on the back in congratulations.
Another flurry of commotion caught both his and Marinette's attentions. She groaned. "Ladybug again?" she mumbled.
He really hoped not. He didn't want another encounter with the costumed heroine. As the crowd drew closer, he realized he got his wish. It wasn't Ladybug.
It was Chat Noir. And he slunk through the mass of people with the prowl of a hunting jaguar. His luminous green eyes were only fixated on one thing: their booth.
"Is he...?" Marinette breathed, and Gabriel wondered if she swooned over all green-eyed famous blondes, or if his son and this hero were the exception. Her expression hardened. "He is," she muttered as her eyes narrowed.
"Hello there," the other half of the duo of Paris greeted with a half-cocked grin and a fully cocked attitude. His eyes slid over the booth, taking in their wares before settling upon Marinette. "This is a very nice setup you have going."
"Chat Noir! Thank you!" she gushed, and Gabriel could almost see the stars in her eyes. The black-clad hero widened his grin and leaned across the table.
"You're welcome," he complimented. "Is there anything for the hero of Paris to buy here?"
"I think I might have just the thing for you," she chirped and turned away. Once her back was to Chat, her star-struck expression dropped instantly. She rolled her eyes and mouthed something silently as she picked through the items. Gabriel did a double take, his mouth agape at the change in attitude. Was this whole thing just a charade for her? Was she mocking Chat Noir? Marinette straightened at last, something clutched in her hands. She plastered the same over-the-top smile upon her face as she turned back to Chat. "Here you go," she exclaimed, her voice high-pitched and excited. "It was designed with you in mind," she said.
Chat perked up and grabbed the offered item. He unfolded it and discovered a cute scarf, jet black with threads of neon green and gold woven at the ends. "Wow, this is really good," he exclaimed, examining the threads in the light. "Did you make it?"
"No, Mr. Agreste designed it."
"That explains why it's such high quality." His gaze drifted to the elder designer.
"Thank you," Gabriel said. He wondered if he should say something more to the hero. Before he could come up with anything, Chat shifted his attention back to Marinette. He grinned at her.
"Can I buy it?"
Marinette smiled. "That's why we're here," she said.
"Great!" He made a show of patting his pockets. "But I don't have any money on me right now." He leaned forward with another wink. "Do you think maybe you can hold it for me?"
She smiled. "Sure, at least until someone comes and wants to buy it."
Chat blinked. His smile slid from his face. "You wouldn't reserve it for a hero of Paris?"
She flicked his bell. "A sale is a sale, Chat," she replied. "It's nothing personal, just business. But if you're concerned, we have a whole line of scarves designed with you in mind. Even if this one gets sold, I'm sure we have plenty more Chat Noir-inspired merchandise to suit you." She winked.
Chat Noir backed up from that, his expression indecipherable. "Ah, well then I most certainly shall return. Until then," he said, bowing in his usual dramatic fashion before sauntering away. "Oh, by the way," he called over his shoulder, "I love the pun." With a two-fingered salute and another smarmy grin, he vanished into the crowd.
Marinette chuckled as she folded the scarf back into a neat square.
"You're not a fan of Chat Noir?" Gabriel asked, curiosity getting the better of him.
"Oh, I'm a huge fan," she replied. "But sometimes his theatrics can get a bit... tiring," she admitted.
"Why pretend, then?"
She fiddled with the scarf for a long moment before shrugging and setting the fabric aside. "I don't want to hurt his feelings," she said.
He didn't quite know what to say to that. The thought that a superhero would need to have their feeling spared... did that mean Chat Noir wasn't as surefire and arrogant as he portrayed? Could he use that in the future?
A swarm of giggling girls approached the counter then.
"Can we see that scarf that you showed Chat Noir?" one asked.
"Sure," Marinette said, retrieving the scarf and handing it to her. Her friends crowded around her, oohing and ahhing over the scarf. Marinette smiled and lifted a box on top of the table. "I didn't set them all out, but this is the collection of Chat Noir scarves."
The girls descended upon the box like a pack of vultures. They complimented and praised all of the designs, comparing each one and getting the opinions of the friends. Gabriel ignored them and turned his attentions back to his tablet. It was only after the gaggle of fangirls departed and he saw Marinette tucking the empty box under the table that he spoke up again.
"Where did you put the scarves?" he asked.
"I sold them," she replied.
"All of them?" His eyes widened.
"Dropping a very loud hint in the presence of those girls about having an entire line of one-of-a-kind scarves in a Chat Noir-themed collection did the trick." She smiled. "They were happy to each get unique items to wear and still display their individuality."
He didn't know what to say. He was stunned that she manipulated the situation to her advantage and still sold a good chunk of merchandise. He wondered if he actually created some Hawkmoth merchandise if she would be able to sell it. Before he could think further, Adrien arrived, carrying another cardboard tray with cups on it. He handed one to Gabriel and hesitated before handing one to Marinette.
"I wasn't sure what you liked," he admitted. "So I just got you green tea."
"That's fine," Marinette replied. "I like green tea."
Adrien fiddled with his cup for a while, sipping in silence before he turned to Marinette. "How did you know our favorite drinks?" he blurted out at last.
Marinette eyed him over her lid. "Your father has stated his preferences in interviews in the past."
"And me?" Adrien prompted. "I'm not too certain I've ever been asked my favorite way to take coffee," he added with a grin.
"Ah, well you know at school when you go to order from the little café cart out front?" she asked.
"I paid attention."
Gabriel hid his smile at his son's dumbfounded expression with a sip of his tea.
"No way," he said. "You knew my favorite drink just because you overheard me telling the barista?"
"Not just yours," she replied.
"Caramel mocha latte. Extra shot of espresso when she's feeling tired."
"Okay that's an easy one, she's your best friend."
Marinette smiled. "You're the one who asked."
"Chai tea, easy on the milk."
Adrien grumbled and turned away, causing Marinette's smile to widen. "Fine, what's yours then?" he asked.
"Jasmine tea, extra honey."
He turned back around, his eyes burning into her. "I'll remember that for next time," he promised. Her cheeks reddened. Adrien glanced around. "So, anything exciting happen while I was gone?"
The blush faded. "Chat Noir stopped by."
"Really? Chat Noir? That's awesome," he exclaimed. "What did he want?"
Marinette pulled at the tablecloth. "Oh, you know, to say hi, check out our wares."
"Did he buy anything?"
"Well, he didn't."
"What does that mean? Did he want you to hold something for him?"
"Actually, yes. But I told him that I couldn't. Good thing, too, because right after he left a whole bunch of girls bought all of the Chat Noir scarves." And Adrien's hand slipped off the table. He struggled to right himself as Marinette turned away and busied herself with pulling out the box from the bakery.
"All of the scarves?" his son choked out. His eyes flew to Gabriel, looking for confirmation. He returned the incredulous stare with a neutral nod. Adrien's stupor didn't fade.
"Yep," Marinette answered, opening the box and peeking inside. "A huge group of fans. They each bought one. We're completely sold out now." She looked up at him with a grin. "We couldn't have done that if I held onto that one scarf. That was the sale that started the whole thing. The catalyst if you will."
Adrien was so astonished at her words that the pun didn't sink in. He accepted the offered quiche numbly. Marinette turned to Gabriel and held out the box, rattling off the different types of food inside. He selected a sandwich and one of the quiches Adrien had raved about earlier.
After they finished their quick lunch, Gabriel rose, using the excuse that he needed to stretch his legs to do a bit of his own investigating around the convention hall. Now that he knew both heroes were there, he wanted to see if he could catch a glimpse of either of them. He learned his lesson from the very first fair, and despite the temptation to transform and visit his booth to complete the Miraculous circle, he refrained.
He wasn't about to get chased out of the convention once again.
Instead, he kept his eyes and ears peeled for any hint of the heroes. Rumors swirled around him about the two that had appeared and walked around the vendor's hall, but quickly faded away from there. They didn't show up at any of the panels or the costume contests. So, his position as supervising Adrien and Marinette actually offered him the perfect spot to watch for them. Maybe Marinette was correct and Ladybug had already visited their booth when she was in her civilian form. What if she stopped by when he wasn't there? What if she was there right now?
He spun around and hurried back to the the vendor hall. He was not panicking right now. He was merely acting like a responsible guardian, that's all. It wouldn't be good to leave the kids alone for too long. He was in charge of watching over them, and though he personally knew that no akuma would attack right now, he couldn't very well explain that to Marinette's parents if they were to ask why he spent half the day out of sight.
As he rushed back to the booth, eager to see if either of the two heroes arrived, he spied Adrien and Marinette smiling at each other. Adrien pushed a small origami rose to her folded out of some red tissue paper they squirreled away for transportation and Gabriel overheard his son apologizing for how he acted earlier. Marinette accepted the delicate rose with a vibrant blush, and Gabriel smiled as he watched their friendship resolidify with that simple apology. He had made the right decision in trying to push his son and this girl closer together. He slipped in behind them, barely disturbing the rapport that had been reestablished and took his seat in his chair, pulling his tablet close to him to jot down a few more ideas for designs.
The rest of the afternoon flew by, and by the end of the day most of the merchandise had sold out. Marinette frowned as she packed up their meager belongings.
"What's wrong?" Adrien asked, catching her expression. Gabriel also paused in his task of taking stock of their remaining inventory.
"Would we even need to come out tomorrow?" she asked. "We're down to barely one-fourth of our remaining items. Is that even worth spending a whole day here? I know you guys are fans, don't you want to see the convention?"
Not a chance, Gabriel wanted to reply. Adrien answered before he could.
"I had fun today," he admitted. "Even if we don't have a lot of stuff to sell tomorrow, I want to come back out." He rubbed the back of his head. "But I can understand if you don't," he added.
"No, I do," Marinette insisted.
"As for the supply problem," Gabriel said, noting the items that sold. "I think we can perhaps make a few more items tonight to sell. That is," he said, lifting his eyes from the tablet to fix on the young girl, "if you want to put in more time."
"Of course!" she answered immediately. "I'll let my parents know."
"I'll provide dinner, of course," he answered. "And I have an idea for how we can speed things up. I'll have Nathalie stop by my company's headquarters to pick up some stock items. Gloves and scarves in basic black, white, and red can all be embellished without having to make everything from scratch. That also won't affect the quality of the material, either, which is a concern when one rushes through a job."
"We can use some of the profits to cover the cost of using your company's stock," Marinette said.
Gabriel's hand stilled over his tablet mid-way through writing his instructions to Nathalie. He looked at her. "That money is yours and Adrien's."
The seriousness of his statement surprised her. "What?" Her mouth dropped open.
His frown deepened. "Did you think you were doing this for free? I wouldn't dare ask Adrien or his friend to devote an entire weekend to selling merchandise without compensation. Let alone accounting for all of the work you've put into this thus far."
"But they're your designs," Marinette insisted. "I can't take your money like that."
"It's yours and Adrien's," Gabriel repeated. "Do with it what you will." And with that, the matter was closed.
Upon arriving back at the manor, Nathalie approached him and quietly informed him that there were several boxes in the atelier, along with any supplies he might possibly need. He nodded and dismissed her for the rest of the evening, and the three of them quickly settled down.
They worked in silence for a couple of hours – both Gabriel and Marinette concentrating on their precision embroidery and Adrien not wanting to disturb either of them. After a while, Gabriel headed over to examine their progress. Though it wasn't much, Marinette managed to embroider basic patterns in lime green and red upon the cuffs of the gloves. She also worked in small tassels and embroidery on the edges of scarves. Adrien had taken several scraps of leftover fabric and fashioned keychains from them. Gabriel had focused more upon the delicate designs of the hats and greater details on the gloves.
He favored them both with a rare smile. "Very nice," he complimented and both teens beamed at him. He had no idea why he was encouraging this to progress further. Maybe he enjoyed spending time with Adrien. Maybe he wanted another chance at Ladybug and Chat Noir and needed more bait to lure them in. Maybe he couldn't stand the thought that his name might receive bad publicity if he couldn't supply adequate merchandise.
Whatever it was, he approved of their work. They packed up and headed to the dining room to eat dinner, an affair filled with Marinette and Adrien excitedly comparing stories about their day, their earlier argument long forgotten as they giggled and teased each other. Every once in a while, they would pause in their antics and shoot an apprehensive look at Gabriel, who pretended not to see and focused upon his tablet. The giggles would resume shortly thereafter. It took all of his willpower not to smile fondly at the two of them, and his heart constricted. A lump formed in his throat as his vision swam and he saw his wife sitting on the other side of Adrien, laughing with the teenagers. He blinked, and the vision dissolved.
Soon, he vowed, I'll make everything better, I swear. Just a little more patience, my love.
After dinner, he had his driver escort Marinette home – Adrien insisted on going with them. Gabriel retired to his room, where he spent the remainder of the night staring at his wife's picture before surrendering to sleep.
Author's Note: Ack! Where did this angst bit come from? Shoo, get out of my crack!
Phew, sorry about that. Your regularly scheduled crack will continue in the next chapter. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy!
Special thanks to PerditaAlottachocolate and Kellarhi for beta-reading this :)
Note: Perdita commissioned SinfulPapillon to draw the scene where Ladybug visits the booth for me for my birthday present! It's featured as the avatar for the story now. To check out the image in full detail, please visit
sinfulpapillon . tumblr (dot com) post / 175675976556 / are-you-going-to-be-here-the-whole-weekend
and remove the spaces for the full link!
Alternatively, since this site doesn't allow for full website links, you can visit the story over at AO3 to see it embedded within the text and full links at the end of the chapter.