It all started with a really slow swing shift.
Adrien Agreste, education major and part time barista, was spacing out while writing out the drink of the week (the choice was always left to the mercy of the last worker out the door during this shift, really) when he came back to earth, read his writing on the chalkboard and burst out laughing. Only one of the two patrons crazy enough to be here at almost 11pm on a Thursday turned their head to look at him, but he barely even noticed through his humor.
He was so sure that Ladybug would already push him off a rooftop if she knew his civilian identity worked at a café called “Paws Fur Coffee” of all names (the owner is a dog person, but he’ll take it), but his flub on the chalkboard menu just topped it all off.
His neat handwriting read back to him: “Chai Noir”.
Adrien snorted ungracefully as he fought to breathe. He was thinking about the battle earlier this week, and it must have just auto-completed in his subconscious. He had to leave it. It was just too golden of an opportunity!
An idea. His brows shot up. Of course, it could be a dirty chai latte… Espresso and the box carton chai, so it’s easy enough that the morning crew wouldn’t get annoyed at him, and he got to keep the pun!
Ladybug would be so done with him, if only she could see this.
Adrien kept snickering to himself as he wrote out the description underneath. He even attempted to draw a chibi Chat Noir peeking out from behind the cup. Now if only he could get the hair right. It looked more Super Saiyan than his scattered hairstyle. He turned to look at his reflection in one of the metal shakers on the shelf above the counter-
- and promptly lost his footing on the step stool he was on. Adrien barely had the chance to swear before he hit the floor, butt first. The only cat-latteral (heh!) damage was the box of chalk that spilled out half broken next to his head.
He heard a chair scrape against the floor. Worried blue eyes peered down at him from over the counter edge, shaded by dark bangs.
“A-are you okay?!”
Oh right, he fell. “Yeah-ow. Yeah, I’ll be just fine.” He bit back a hiss as he rubbed his back and stood up. “I appreciate you coming to my rescue, though.”
Her gaze followed his movements as he stood, brushing himself off. Adrien glanced at the other patron in the building who didn’t even flinch from behind their newspaper.
A groan caught his attention and he snapped back up to look at the other – this girl was already seated before his shift started, but the giant mug on her table still was half-full. Her raven hair was tied up in a messy bun and she was dressed comfortably in an oversized pink sweater, leggings, and boots. She probably went to his campus too, from how late she was staying here.
But now she was looking up at the blackboard, almost glaring. Her hands rested on her hips.
“Oh my God.” She choked out, trying to hold back a laugh. “I don’t know whether to hit your or laugh at how perfect that is – and how bad you made Chat Noir look!”
“What do you mean?!” Adrien was no artist, but it didn’t look that bad…did it?
She pointed a finger up at the board. “He looks like a pineapple. Even I’m not mean enough to do that to him.”
“And you can do better?” He tried to look cross at her, but she was now covering her escaped giggles with her oversized sleeve. He couldn’t help but relax a little at how her eyes lit up with the same laughter.
“As a matter of fact, I can.” She smirked at him and held out her hand. Adrien handed the last whole piece of chalk before she climbed the step stool.
“Oh right - reference, duh. Gotta pull up the Ladyblog.” she muttered.
As she glanced down at her phone, body still angled at him, Adrien nervously flattened his hair back into place as neatly as possible before wandering out of her peripheral vision to find a distraction. He picked up the broken pieces of chalk still on the ground, keeping his head bowed. Having his identity and his sliiiiight vanity discovered wasn’t on his list of things to do tonight.
“Alright, done! And now that I saved you from your starving artist future, I’d like a drink, please.” By the time he turned around she was already down and handed him back the box of chalk with a shy grin.
He looked up and gasped.
It was purrfect.
Chat Noir grinned back down at the counter, staff in hand. It wasn’t super detailed, but he was expecting her to copy the blobby chibi style he had attempted (okay, so it didn’t look much better than those American how-to-draw-manga books, but he was trying!) and the best part was the “Meow-velous~!” written in a word bubble above his head.
“Wow,” he breathed, still staring for a moment before turning back to the girl. “Can I pay you in drinks to keep doing this for me?”
She smiled back, face flushed but appearing a little more confident this time. "You know, with the upper divs I have this quarter I will hold you to that promise. I'm Marinette, by the way." She held out her hand.
"Deal." He shook hers firmly. “I’m Adrien.”
Marinette froze for a second before snapping her hand back to her chest, horrified.
“I, uh, I mean- I’m a design and textiles m-major, it’d be a little silly if I didn’t know who y-you are!” Her eyes were wide, darting to look everywhere else around the room except at him. “Not that being G-Gabriel’s son or a model is all you are! Um, because you go to school here – or, I mean - ughhhhh.”
She slapped both hands over her red face and groaned. He raised a brow at her when she took a deep breath and held out her hand again, the other still covering half her face.
“Hi, I’m Marinette and I’ve been working so hard all day that I can’t make a coherent sentence anymore.” She muttered again, muffled by the hand still on her face.
He couldn’t help but chuckle at the girl. True, his name did pull a lot of attention at first, and it was a relief when he could walk around campus and blend in like everyone else, but she’s one of the first since coming to this school to say, “Hi, I know you but I’d like to treat you somewhat like a regular human being first.”
Or something along those lines. He didn’t catch every single word in her panicked state but he got the gist of it.
He took her hand in both of his and shook it once before letting go. She still refused to uncover her face.
They stood awkwardly for a moment before Adrien grinned wider and rocked back and forth on his feet.
“Sooooo…I do have to close up shop soon but I can make you a Chai Noir before you go.” Marinette finally met his gaze again, grimacing at him.
“Is this how all your drinks are going to be named?” She groaned, looking up at the sign again before visibly deflating. “But yeah, I’d like that. I have more reading to catch up on before the sun rises.”
“Is that a challenge?” His eyebrows rose as he pointedly looked at her before he turned to start on the drink. She walked back around the counter to the customer side and leaned forward to rest her chin on her hands.
“Why do I get the feeling you’ll take it as one anyway?”
“I purr-omise I’ll exceed your expectations.” His voice drifted over the sound of the foamer. He didn’t look up from the machine but smirked as he heard only a defeated sigh.
Marinette was hesitant when he told her the large drink was on him for helping him out, but the tired look on her face showed she didn’t have it in her to politely deny it more than once.
Both of them were reluctant to say goodbye, but between their small conversations the counters were wiped, the chairs put up and all Adrien had to do was flip off the switch and lock the door. Neither noticed when the other mystery customer had left. It was past midnight when she jokingly bid him a good morning before zipping down the street on her bike, drink held carefully in one hand.
He watched her disappear around the corner, only then catching the goofy grin on his face. He made a new friend today, and he also found a fun challenge to work on.
It was only week two, but Adrien knew. This was going to be a really fun quarter.