It was a normal Friday morning. Adrien woke up in his too-big bedroom ten minutes before his alarm clock, and tried to go back to sleep, the terribly mundane events of the previous night swirling in his head: homework, Call of Duty, getting into arguments on tumblr about fictional characters (sorry, but who in their right mind thought Yuri Plisetsky and Otabek Altin together was in any way offensive? They were two years apart for fucks sake!).
He’d texted with Nino a bit, earlier, his best friend who he’d still yet to meet in real life. Because, of course, Nino’s one singular previous trip to Paris years before had had to coincide with a mandatory trip to Milan for Adrien. Adrien had told his friend all of the best places to go, but they’d just missed each other, which was frustrating, considering they’d been talking online since they were fourteen.
But then Nino had decided to go to a local student club’s “French night” with some friends from the Métropole, so Adrien spent the rest of the night alone, as usual. He wasn’t bitter; he didn’t begrudge Nino his friends. It wasn’t Nino’s fault by any stretch of the imagination that the only person who Adrien could feasibly call a friend in Paris was a spoiled heiress who shared almost no common interests with him. Adrien just wished that he could connect better with his classmates; he had friendly acquaintances, sure, but he knew most people thought he was buying his grades, somehow, with how often he missed class for a photoshoot, only to find his face plastered all over in Paris in a new advert weeks later.
But that was neither here nor there.
Adrien’s alarm went off, and he turned it off. It wasn’t worth hitting the snooze button. He was a grown-ass adult, in his second year of uni, but he knew Nathalie would still barge into his room if he were too late.
He got out of bed, made the bed, and then checked his phone. He had a string of texts from Nino, each less coherent than the last.
Adrien stared at the texts in horror. He hoped Nino hadn’t been taken advantage of – but then he also knew Nino couldn’t type if he was even tipsy.
After much hesitation, Adrien put his phone down and went in his bathroom to shower. Nino’s last text had been sent at six in the morning. Adrien was sure that he was still asleep, and, really, Adrien had class.
At lunch between classes at a bakery-patisserie not too far from campus, he got another message from Nino.
He checked the time and locked his phone. The bakery was pretty busy, and he didn’t think he’d be able to get through class without a couple lavender-honey macarons. And what his dietician and personal trainer didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, right?
“Those are my daughter’s favourite, too,” said the woman behind the register after Adrien placed his order.
“Your daughter? Does she work here, too?” He’d found this bakery a few months ago, but he didn’t think he’d seen anyone beside the same Asian woman behind the counter.
The woman shook her head and went to get his macarons. “She’s in university. She used to help out while she was in school, but lately her workload from school has been more than enough.”
Adrien nodded. “I can understand that.” His workload was almost unbearable, but then… he didn’t really have a social life to balance. He was sure that whoever this girl was, as the daughter of normal people, she was allowed to have her own social life.
The woman nodded and packed up his macarons. “I couldn’t help but notice that book you were reading.”
He furrowed his brows. He’d been reading Under the Hawthorn Tree, which was in Mandarin. “It’s for pleasure,” Adrien said. “I study physics.”
« But you speak Mandarin? » she asked.
Adrien nodded. « Yes. I’ve been learning it since I was a teenager. My father thought learning it would be beneficial. »
The woman smiled and handed him his macarons. « That’s a good book. »
Adrien nodded. « I like it so far, » he agreed. « How much do I owe you? »
She waved him off. « It’s on the house. I see you here almost every day, and it’s always nice to meet someone with an interest in my mother tongue. »
« Are you sure? » Adrien asked.
« Absolutely. »
He thanked her profusely, but shoved a ten euro bill into the tip jar when she turned her back. He liked the woman at the bakery, despite not knowing her name, and he didn’t want her to lose a cent in profits just for him. He got the feeling she owned the place, at least, but even so. He’d had enough business lessons to know how difficult it was to make restaurants and shops and bakeries profitable.
Nino texted him again that night, as Adrien was working through a set of physics problems.
Adrien snorted. He couldn’t say that he wasn’t jealous, but it was unlikely that his life would change soon. He knew he was going to Berlin the following semester, and he’d finally get to hang out with Nino in person, but he was sure his father would make him keep modelling, and he’d already accepted that he’d have a full schedule with no room for goofing off.
He knew, traditionally, an Erasmus year was time to go to parties, drink a lot, date around (and sleep around, too), and say “fuck it” to his studies, but there was no way that that would be Adrien’s year. Even if his father thought his passion for physics was a phase… Gabriel Agreste left no room for error. If he fucked up, that was it.
But god, he at least hoped that he managed to make a few friends in Berlin. His life in Paris was okay, but that was in large part thanks to secret trips to the bakery and frequent texts with Nino. He could use a few more friends to keep his mind off of his inevitable and depressing future: eventual future head of the Gabriel Agreste fashion house whenever his father decided to retire. It was unfathomable that his father would ever allow him to become something else, and Adrien didn’t have the skills or tools to survive on his own. Not yet, anyway.