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Of Casual Encounters And Late Nights

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When one of Gotham’s villains decided to wreak havoc in Paris, Batman saw fit to send one of his sons to investigate further before deciding whether or not it was necessary to call in the whole family. Jason was more than happy to be granted the opportunity. Less than a day later he was strolling down the streets of the City of Lights, admiring the views and tracking down some of Penguin’s goons in the process. 

While on the flight he had been scheming with Tim about possible courses of action, aiming to find as quickly as possible the new base of the Penguin. It didn't take them long to outline a plan, and that’s the explanation of why he was being led into a goose chase all around the city late at night. He was following a couple of guys that, according to his brother, were part of the henchmen the villain had hired while in the new city.

Immersed as he was in thinking how to infiltrate the quarters, he dropped his guard for a mere second, but even that was enough for him to be pinned into the wall by two of the guys he was following. Jason cursed under his breath and tried his best to break free. He was a trained assassin goddammit. He wasn’t about to let these brainless schmucks think they could defeat him. Just as he reached for the inside pocket of his jacket where his weapons were, a red shadow dropped from the roof next to the alley and in two quick swipes had the idiots tied up, while the third one attempted a pathetic threat that was met with an icy blue stare that made him turn on his heel and run.

“Oh no you don’t.” With practiced ease, he threw a knife at the retreating figure nailing him right on the calf, making him trip and land face first into the street. With a small smirk he retrieved the cursing man and brought him back to the alley, only then paying attention to the red figure. He had to do a double take as all he could think of at first was “Those are a little too many spots.” As he recovered from that though, he looked at her in the eye with skepticism. “I wasn’t aware Paris had heroes”

“You’re new here I assume then?” The girl seemed to be giving him a once over to make sure he was okay before continuing. “I’m Ladybug, I take care of Paris and its citizens.”

“Nice meeting you Ladybug” He nodded in acknowledgement, and then begrudgingly added a small “Thank you for helping, though I could’ve beat them myself.”

She was sitting in the shadow of the building next to them, and the dim light made it almost hard to see her eyes, but he could tell she was smiling by the sheer amount of amusement in her tone. “Oh I’m sure you could have, that knife throw was impressive. But here I’d rather resolve as many things as possible without havign to resort to that type of violence.”

Sirens could be heard approaching their position as Ladybug turned to him again. “You should get going, I’ll hand these three over to the police”

Jason definitely felt the need to protest arise, but if he wanted to recover from this and keep his low profile while in the city, he had better do as the woman said and nodded with a chuckle. “Until we meet again Ladybug” he said, retreating back to his hotel for the night.

-

Marinette was not the type to linger while thinking about her encounters with civilians, but there was something about this guy that left her unsettled. She was being honest when she said he could probably take the thugs out, but if his approach to capturing the running guy was anything to go by, had she not intervened, the fight would’ve ended a lot worse than it did. She supposed she couldn’t blame the guy for knowing how to defend himself. A lot of people in Paris started learning some kind of self-defense to at least make akuma attacks a bit more bearable. The bluenette tried to convince herself that there was nothing to worry about with this guy, but then she remembered his movements, and the glint in his eyes when he assured her he would’ve been okay. Fiery yet calculated (and a bit cocky if she was honest). He was used to this type of situations apparently.

“Should I be worried about him Tikki?” She turned to the tiny god floating by her monitor with a pensive expression. “I have never seen him before, and he didn’t know Ladybug which means he’s a foreigner. For all we know he could be dangerous.”

“Or maybe he’s just well prepared. His accent sounded American, and you know they have their fair share of heroes and villains there too.” The kwami floated closer to Marinette and sat on top of her head giving her gentle pats. 

“I guess you’re right… I would like to keep an eye on him nonetheless if I see him again. You never know, and if somehow Hawkmoth manages to snag him and turn him into an akuma…” She shivered at the thought. Ladybug and her team had fought many akumas in the previous years, but the nagging feeling at the back of her head insisted that she wouldn’t like to fight against this one.

She finally decided she needed more information on this stranger.

While the young woman debated with herself, Tikki could only stare at her in hopes that she would crawl out of the spiral of thoughts on her own. When that didn’t happen, she flew in front of her chosen and patted her cheeks. “You have classes tomorrow early, you should go to sleep Marinette. You can think about all of this in the morning”

“Oh...oh right! I almost forgot about that. I have to finish my outline for the project and start sewing the prototype for-”

Tikki could see the anxiety slowly creeping on Mari’s face yet again and put a stop to it before it could spiral out of control. “That can wait. You need sleep, and if you started now it would probably go wrong somewhere, and you’d have to start it from scratch later but then you’d be also tired.”

“You’re right Tikki. I don’t know what I’d do without you." She directed a soft smile to the tiny kwami and nuzzled her gently against her cheek. “Goodnight”

“Goodnight Marinette” Tikki said, before going back to her little fairy house her chosen had made just for her. 

After the lights were off and she had snuggled under the blankets, Mari let her thoughts wander free for a moment and ugh . The young fashion designer had been so busy with her Ladybug duties lately, she had started neglecting the rest of them. If she wanted to succeed in her career path and pass her classes, she certainly needed to start working harder as finals were approaching at an alarming rate.

Why she had ever thought a double degree in fashion design and business was a good idea was beyond her. She imagined it would be worth it in the end to be able to make a name for herself in the industry, but so far she was only regretting making a schedule that alloted for a maximum of 5 hours of sleep every night.

But it was what it was, and for now all she could do was head to bed and hope her alarm could wake her up in the morning.

Chapter Text

A week went by where Jason managed to avoid meeting Ladybug again while investigating, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t heard of her. Akuma attacks were as frequent as ever and gave him an opportunity to learn more about the terrors that had been plaguing Paris for years now apparently. He sent all new info on it to his family,  who couldn’t believe none of it had reached them up until that point. Bruce was feeling particularly flabbergasted among them.

“You mean to tell me there’s been a terrorist in Paris for years, one that’s been destroying the city twice a week, and we knew absolutely nothing about it?” He seemed to be going through the seven stages of grief before excusing himself to call Diana.

Meanwhile, Jason’s brothers piled up in front of the computer screen wanting to hear more about the heroes and their work. Tim was looking up information on the internet while Dick asked questions nonstop about their powers, and their suits, and if he had had the chance to talk to them yet. 

“They sometimes stay back after the attacks, but their powers have some kind of time limit so those are rare occasions, or so I’ve heard. They’re all proficient fighters and each have their own set of powers and weapon. Ladybug’s powers are the most impressive by far” 

The mention of her name threw him right back into the memory of the night they first met. Despite resenting not being given an opening to talk to her more then, Jason had to admit leaving had been the right choice. He wanted to stay in the shadows as long as possible, and dealing with the police on his second night in the city wouldn’t have made that easy for him. Adding to that, even though he was quite stubborn and didn’t want to accept it, he felt curious about the spotted heroine. She was sassy and clever and, if the two battles she had this week were anything to go by, her abilities to strategize rivaled Tim’s.

He came back to the present with a jolt when Dick whined about him not paying attention, eliciting a snort from both him and Damian, who also looked at the eldest with a sneer. “You’re 29 Grayson, no one that age should be making those types of noises.” Jason would rather die than saying it out loud, but sometimes he did miss the dumbasses that were his brothers. 

“You know, I don’t think we would have believed this was real even if someone had told us about it. I found a... Ladyblog ? It has videos of almost every attack from the last 4 years as far as I can see, and these look every bit as outlandish as I expected them to. There’s this one where apparently the whole city was flooded.” Tim pulled up the video in the peripheral monitors for the others to see and, lo and behold, there was the video from the day Ondine had drowned Paris. Faint screams could be heard in the background as the person recording managed to get to the roof of a building just in time to see the people still left on the street be swiped by the giant wave. From then on it was all silent. “This is horrible, so many people must have died during this. How did they manage to recover? I’m sure the news of Paris underwater should’ve popped up SOMEWHERE.”

“They didn’t because it didn’t last more than an afternoon.” Jason ran a hand through his hair impatiently. The whole week he had been aching to go out as Red Hood but couldn’t risk meeting Ladybug and it was making him jittery. “That’s what Ladybug’s power is. She just….reverts everything. I haven’t been able to find out how yet, but I’ve been told it must be magic or some shit.”

“Reverts everything? Just like that? Like….turning back time?” Dick looked confused trying to come up with a rational explanation

“I don’t think so. Everyone except the victims remember everything that happened. It’s more of a cure, if you will. She fixes everything, makes a new Eiffel Tower appear, brings the dead back to life, you know, no big deal.” Jason couldn’t help but chuckle at their faces. “I know, if anyone tried to tell me this before I saw it myself I wouldn’t have believed it either.”

A moment of silence on his brothers’ end was interrupted by the return of Bruce. “Diana is positively furious right now. Apparently someone received a message from these heroes years ago and thought it was a joke, so they dismissed it. Diana asked to see the message and just unleashed hell on the poor guy after watching it. It seems her mother was a former Ladybug and she grew up knowing about the magic of the ‘ Miraculous ’” He said the word in a way that made his sons think he was as confused as they were “The League is planning to make a trip to Paris as soon as possible to assess the situation.”

Now that brought a frown to Jason’s face. “I know I’m usually the reckless one here, but listen to me for a moment. You’re just planning on barging in here, with an angry Wonder Woman, and a probably scared shitless League, to battle a guy who makes you his minion if you show the tiniest hint of a negative emotion? Imagine if Diana got akumatized. You must really want the apocalypse to start huh?” 

He scanned their faces and wasn’t surprised to see skepticism and some smirks too. This was so not typical of him. Jason was a shoot first, ask second kinda guy, and he used to enjoy killing a little too much for it to be healthy. But he remembered what Ladybug had told him about resorting to the least amount of violence possible, and he was honestly worried about what could happen if three dozen superheroes just showed up one day to a fight. “Listen, as far as I can see, Ladybug and her team have things covered here. Give me some time to gather more information and maybe I can find a way for her and Red Hood to have a meeting. I’ll ask her if she still wants our help. But until then, you should refrain from bringing anyone here. Unless you want panic to run rampant among the citizens because the whole Justice League came.”

Snickers could be heard coming from Tim and Dick. Even Damian was trying not to show his amusement at the situation. “Who would’ve thought Todd actually had a brain. We should go if only to check whether he’s been replaced by a clone or something”

“Oh fuck off Demon Spawn, I can be smart too if I want to."

Their father seemed to be mulling over his words before sighing and nodding. “Alright. I think we can go along with what you said for now, but I want you to keep us updated regularly, and to inform us if something out of the ordinary happens. If you need us there, we’ll be on alert. And I expect that meeting with Ladybug to happen sooner rather than later. Also don’t forget why you’re originally there, we have to gather more information on what the Penguin is planning."

“You got it Brucie.” He made fingers guns at the screen with a click of his tongue. “Expect it to be at least a week until I have some big news for you, but I’ll try to make it happen as quickly as possible. And worry not about my mission, I’m almost done with it. Now my dear family, if you’ll excuse me, it’s already 2am and I would like to pretend to be a tourist at least for a day tomorrow. I’ll let you know if something comes up.”

He quickly ended the call and face planted on his bed. This was going to be a long mission. One week in and he was already exhausted. He wasn’t lying when he said he was close to finishing the mission he was originally sent to Paris for, though.  He had infiltrated the goons quickly and efficiently, and managed to hear about a drug shipment due to arrive in a couple weeks together with a human one. As soon as he got the information as to where he’d call his family and they could resolve the problem easily. For now though, he couldn’t help but want to keep them away a bit longer. Be it because, even though he loved his brothers (not that he’d ever tell them), he wanted some time alone, or be it because he wanted more time to try and figure out Ladybug, he still wasn’t completely sure.

If you asked him, he would deny it to his dying breath that he was interested in the heroine, but something about her made him want to get closer and know more about her. In spite of the great amount of knowledge the public had on her, she was surrounded by an aura of mystery and something else that Jason couldn’t pinpoint, which had him turning in his sleep ever since that encounter in the alley. It also didn’t help that she seemed to be around the same age as him, her suit doing her great favours in all her red and black. Alright. Maybe he thought she was a bit attractive. Very attractive? 

“No. Nope. Not going there.” He got up and decided to ignore that part of his brain as of now. For no particular reason whatsoever. It was only normal to want to know more about the person protecting the city. Call it a professional interest, thank you very much.

The dark haired man decided to take advantage of having an expensive suite for once and took a long bath while doing some more research on Paris. He was indeed planning to walk around the city the next day after all. When he was done, Jason headed to the bed and fell asleep promptly. Dreams full of back alleys and superheroes. 

-

As luck would have it, it didn’t take long for the both of them to meet yet again. Only maybe not in the way the Gotham vigilante would have hoped for. Set on at least enjoying this pseudo-vacation he was gifted, Jason left his hotel the next morning to visit the most popular places in the city. The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc of Triumph and the Champs Élysées were the places he had chosen to visit during the morning and early afternoon, but, even though his main goal was to distract himself from the tasks at hand, he couldn’t will away the questions roaming around his head. 

How was he going to contact Ladybug? He wanted to do it as Red Hood, but he didn’t want the heroine of Paris to distrust him since he was pretty sure his reputation would precede him. He was known for being the most ruthless of the batfam, the only thing keeping him from killing criminals once he was done with them was Batman’s No killing under any kind of circumstances rule (which if you asked him was a special kind of bullshit, some of them did deserve to rot in hell in his opinion), and he wasn’t sure if Ladybug would be as willing to hear him out as she may one of his brothers or father. However, his only other option would be to approach her as Jason Todd, one of Bruce Wayne’s adopted sons. He didn’t even know whether Ladybug would care about his family name. This wasn’t his city. And on the off chance that she might have recognized him… He was still a mere civilian. One that had, on top of that, to explain his connection to the Gotham vigilantes without giving away any of their identities. Jason knew his hands were tied. Red Hood had to be the one to try and get the attention of the spotted hero. Knowing there was no other option didn't make him happy about it though. 

Once he was done with this line of thinking his brain decided to go back to the Penguin. He was trying to instill one of the worst types of businesses in Paris and he couldn’t wait to put a stop to it. As much as he knew drug trafficking to be terrible, he was of the opinion that people who engaged in (as well as profited off of) human trafficking should have a special circle of hell destined for them. Preferably in the very depths of it.

Jason was very much aware that, for as long as he remained in this city, negative emotions had to be controlled and dissipated as quickly as possible to avoid an akumatization. Especially those of someone with the skills and knowledge he had. He had a lot of the latter in strange topics, most of which he acquired growing up during his training. And albeit he wasn’t sure whether it would actually be useful to Hawkmoth or not, he would rather not put it to the test. All of this, however, was sent to the back burner for a second as Jason's thoughts strayed towards what he would like to do to the Gotham villain when he captured him. 

Being so busy imagining the 30 different methods of torture he would like to inflict upon the Penguin had made him completely disregarded his surroundings, however. Coming back to his senses, his brain pointed out they were standing at the door of what seemed like a very nice patisserie, just in time for his stomach to growl, his lunch seemingly having been digested some time ago.

‘Maybe something sweet is exactly what I need right now’

-

Some days had passed since Marinette met Jason,  and though he was still burning in the back of her mind, she had way too many things to worry about during the day to remember him often. At night, however, the questions she had originally asked herself the first night continued to plague her, and since Tikki told her not to worry about it too much, the designer saw wise to keep her train of thought to herself. She wasn’t even sure why her brain seemed so fixed on this stranger she had only met once. Sure, he was involved in a fight, and seemed to be a foreigner, but it wasn’t that uncommon for petty altercations to break out around the city while she patrolled. Also this was Paris, for Kwamis’ sake. One of the biggest tourist capitals of the world. There was no reason why this Jason guy should’ve stuck to her mind as he did. Yet here she was. In the middle of her afternoon shift at the bakery. Still thinking about him .

A chime coming from the door brought her out of her stupor. But as she looked up, ready to greet the new customer, she suddenly froze, and her brain could only supply her with the word green. 

Green eyes she had only got a quick glance into a week ago were now in front of her and the color was even more intense as they reflected the sunlight rays that entered through the bakery’s windows.