Chapter 1: Prologue
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Marinette looked at Collège Françoise Dupont, feeling nothing but weirdly empty. Numb.
It had gone so well at the beginning of the new year. It had been exciting and she was happy, and nothing could go wrong. And then it did.
It felt like a cruel wake-up call to Marinette, in some way. That of course it didn’t matter what she had done for her classmates, and that one should never, never expect something in return from others.
It still hurt.
Marinette had decided that she needed advice, but she lacked the courage to go to her parents. She wanted another opinion on the matter before talking to her parents about it.
So, she wrote a letter to her Nonna.
Of course, it took some time before her Nonna replied to her, but when she did, Marinette found that she didn’t disappoint.
Nonna had always talked about making decisions that would make oneself happy, and in her reply to Marinette, had asked an interesting question.
‘When was the last time you made a decision that would affect others, where you put yourself first?’
That made Marinette think.
And she couldn’t remember.
That was when she decided to talk to her parents about transferring.
The silence at the dining table after Marinette had come clean to her parents was almost choking. Marinette couldn’t bring herself to look at her parents, instead focusing on the pattern on the tablecloth, dragging her finger along.
“For how long has this been going on, Marinette?” Asked Sabine. Marinette could tell she was trying to go for an encouraging tone, but there was a slight edge to it. An underlying, current of anger, hidden beneath the surface, that had Marinette shrinking in on herself.
In a short, almost non-existent moment, the world seemed to still as the Dupain-Chengs took in the information that they had just been given.
A month where their daughter had been alienated. A month where she had felt completely alone. A month where she didn’t feel like she could go to her parents, because she believed her feelings was her responsibility.
And almost as soon as the world had stopped, it had started again, as Tom stood from his chair and enveloped his little girl in a tight hug, lifting her from her seat, and briefly, Marinette wondered if it was to comfort her or himself.
Marinette slept a little easier that night.
With the decision that Marinette would transfer school, being in class suddenly felt easier. Maybe it was the knowledge that it wouldn’t be like this forever that calmed her down. Or maybe, for the first time since this whole Lila mess started, Marinette looked at the situation from outside. She’d done what she could.
Marinette chose to speak with Master Fu about it that day too. She knew there was no way she could trust in Alya or Nino again, but she felt it would be wise to hear him about it before another Miraculous would be needed again.
For now, though, she would only look at her classmates and Lila with disinterest as she enjoyed her lunch alone.
Master Fu’s place had always been rather relaxing.
That made sense though, what with it being a massage place and all. The green tea placed in her hands helped too.
“So, what is it you wish to discuss with me?” Master Fu asked.
Marinette looked hesitant. She wasn’t sure what Master Fu would think, she just knew she wanted him to approve of her choice.
“Master Fu, what- what would you do if people were being used, and you warn them about it, but they won’t listen to you? If they turn against you and hurt you, because they think you’re wrong.” Marinette asked. “…would you stay and continue trying to help them, or would you remove yourself from the situation?”
Master Fu hummed in thought, Wayzz looking worriedly between his holder and Marinette.
“Selflessness versus selfishness. In an ideal world, the choice of being selfless would be best, but…” Master Fu looked at Marinette, her tense posture, her fiddling with her teacup. “It can burn you out, and if you hold a great responsibility, that could be dangerous. We are not meant to only think about others, but ourselves too.”
Marinette let out a sigh, visibly relaxing, and took a sip of her tea.
“May I ask what brought on the question?” Master Fu looked at her patiently as she started to fiddle with her cup once more.
“I’m transferring to a new school… or that’s the goal at least.” Marinette looked down at her tea, seeing her reflection mirrored back at her. “Things haven’t really been going well and I… I’m just really unhappy, and frustrated and-” She let out an agitated sigh. “I was almost akumatized, and I don’t want to be risking it by being at a place with people that make me feel miserable.”
Master Fu and Wayzz shared a worried glance at the girl’s explanation. She was right, the risk of her becoming akumatized was not worth it in the situation.
“Then I believe you have made the right decision on the matter.” Master Fu said.
“Surely you aren’t alone.” Wayzz said, and Marinette knew that he was thinking about Nino.
“I’m not entirely sure…” She admitted. “There’s someone in my class who’s… aware of what’s happening, but I don’t think he knows the full extent of it.”
“Have you talked to him about it?” Master Fu asked.
“He believes that we shouldn’t do anything, let the situation solve itself but… it’s been a month and it’s only getting worse.” Master Fu nodded in understanding.
“That brings another issue though.” Marinette said, her eyes narrowed, calculating. “Rena Rouge and Carapace, I don’t think I can trust them in battle again.”
Master Fu hummed.
“I trust your decision, and if you believe that Rena Rouge and Carapace are unfit or untrustworthy, then we must find others to wield the Miraculous when the situation arises.”
Wayzz looked saddened by the information, and Marinette felt a little bad about it, but she knew that she couldn’t fight beside Alya and Nino again, especially if they trusted Lila over her.
“Would it be possible for us to do meditation?” Marinette asked. “I don’t know how long it will take for me to find a new school to attend, and while I’m calmer about the situation now, I’d like to have a few techniques, just in case…”
“Of course.” Master Fu said. “That would probably be for the best. Come by every Wednesday and we can work on your meditation.”
After that, the invisible weight Marinette had been carrying felt a little lighter, if not just slightly.
When Marinette came home, she looked at her room in thought.
There was a lot of pictures. And not just of Adrien.
Pictures of her and Alya, the class, Kitty Section. So many, and in all of them Marinette looked to be smiling. Now the pictures left a bitter taste in her mouth.
So Marinette started cleaning. She took down every picture, every note, every drawing that reminded her of why she felt so awful lately and put it all in a stack on her desk. She changed her computer desktop to a quote by Vincent Van Gogh, and then she took out a notebook and a pen.
“What’s the notebook for, Marinette?” Tikki asked.
Tikki had been as supportive of her holder as she could, especially after what happened with her near akumatization.
“It’s for letters, I want to try something.” Marinette said, as she climbed up and out to her balcony, Tikki following behind her.
Marinette sat down on her chair and looked out at the city as the sun was setting. She took a deep breath, opened her notebook, and started writing.
Word after word, Marinette started to feel lighter, addressing every single classmate, some letters only being half a page, and others, Marinette felt, went on page, after page, after page.
By the end of it, almost all of the notebook was full, and the sun had completely set.
“Do you think I made the right choice, Tikki?” Marinette’s voice cut through the quiet.
“I think you deserve as much happiness as everyone else Marinette, and if you have to change schools for that, then I think that’s the best decision you could make.” Tikki replied.
“Thank you, Tikki.” Marinette kissed her Kwami’s cheek before climbing back inside her room.
She still had so much to do before she could leave.
“Girl, what has gotten into you lately?” Alya asked.
Marinette had been spaced out for the good majority of the week. At first, Alya had thought she was finally stopping with the Lila hate, but then she realized that Marinette still refused to sit with them during lunch.
“Hm?” Marinette perked up, looking at Alya.
Truth be told, it was because she had been thinking about all the possible schools for her to transfer to. She had been looking all week, but for the time being, she had come up with nothing. It wasn’t that Marinette looked for something in particular, but now that she was actually going to transfer, she wanted to go to a place where she knew she would actually be happy to be, even if she ended up friendless and alone.
So far, she had no luck, but she wasn’t giving up!
“You need to lay off with Lila, Girl, this can’t be good for you, and it’s certainly not good for her.” Alya said.
Marinette clenched her hand but kept her facial expression neutral.
She had stopped considering Alya a friend a while ago, probably after she wrote the letters, but she wasn’t going to start an unnecessary confrontation because Alya was being rude.
“It’s nothing, I’ve just been working on some new designs.” Marinette said, giving a small, polite smile.
Alya nodded, looking skeptical, before leaving Marinette alone at her desk, heading towards Lila and a good chunk of the class.
Marinette sighed. This was getting exhausting. She looked down at her desk in thought, before nodding, deciding with herself.
If she couldn’t find a school at the end of the day, she thought she would fall in love with, then she would just settle with whatever would bring her away from Dupont.
Maybe she was just too picky? If Marinette had just made a choice already, then she wouldn’t have had to be there now. She wouldn’t have to listen to Alya complain about her, the others in her class whisper about her, Lila lying about her.
It was getting straining to stay.
Marinette looked out the window and watched the streets of Paris a bit, at least what she could see of it.
She mattered. It might not have felt like it in the moment, and yet she knew this. Somewhere, out there, someone would miss her. She mattered.
Marinette kept repeating that to herself until school ended, more determined than ever to get away from Dupont.
“Ugh, this is hard Tikki!” Marinette exclaimed as she drooped in her chair.
The first thing Marinette did once she got home was go to her computer and start searching again, but with little luck.
“I’m sure you’ll be able to find something Marinette, you just need to have a little patience and not give up.” Tikki said. Marinette just groaned in response.
“I don’t even know what it is I’m looking for, at this point. I feel as if I’d be happy with anything as long as it doesn’t have Lila in it.” Marinette continued to rant.
She had already been looking for a week, and her parents had too. It was getting annoying at this point.
“I want to find a good school, but I never thought-“
“Marinette?” Sabine called from downstairs, cutting Marinette off. “Nadja is here, she has something exciting to share with you!”
Marinette looked at Tikki curiously, who only shrugged in response. What did Nadja possibly have to share with her?
Marinette walked down to the living room, where her mother and Nadja sat, Tom most likely being downstairs and taking care of the bakery while the two women talked.
“Ah, Marinette,” Nadja smiled at her gently. ”Your parents told me about what was going on at your school. I’m sorry to hear it.” She said sympathetically.
Marinette just smiled awkwardly, not sure what to say.
“It’s okay, there’s not much you could do about it anyway.”
Nadja nodded, not looking satisfied with this fact. Then she perked up, seemingly remembering what it was she wanted to tell Marinette.
“I’ve found something you might find useful.” Nadja said as she pulled out what looked to be a brochure. “Your parents told me you had been struggling with finding a new school to go to, and I remembered I had wanted to show you this a while back, before all of this mess was a thing.”
She handed Marinette the brochure, who read it over.
Académie Voltaire, school for the creative arts.
Marinette opened it, a little more interested in its contents than she had been before.
“It’s expensive.” Nadja said, cutting through Marinette’s awe as she read about the academy. “But it’s possible to get a scholarship.”
“Even this late into the year?” Marinette asked.
“There should be.” Nadja smiled at Marinette, placing a hand on Marinette’s shoulder. “You have an impressive resumé, Marinette, and you’re very talented. I have no doubt in my mind that you’ll be able to get in.”
“I- I don’t know what to say-! Thank you so much!” Marinette threw her arms around Nadja, hugging her tightly, meanwhile Sabine and Nadja shared a look over her shoulder.
Académie Voltaire was- way out of her league.
The school itself was an old chateau in great size, made of old bricks with vines climbing up the walls. There was a big fountain at the front, and gardens with flowers in every color of the rainbow decorated the grounds.
It had a focus on creative arts, all the way from composing to fashion design. The first years were 11 and the 7 years were 18. Some, if not most of the students at the school start from the very beginning, but it wasn’t unheard of to start later.
Everything in Marinette screamed that it was her dream school, but Nadja really wasn’t lying when she said it was expensive.
She wasn’t going to give up though, even if, at the moment, it felt like her chances of getting in were close to none.
Marinette read over the scholarship requirements, and the things that could help her get in. She wanted the odds to be with her in this, and that meant doing everything she could to higher her chances.
First, she needed to make a portfolio of what she felt was her best work, then she needed to write a 5000-word essay on why she deserved to get in, and if she could get it, a recommendation letter.
The most daunting task was most definitely her portfolio. It wasn’t that she thought she was a bad designer, but the thought of real professionals judging her work, deciding whether or not she was good enough to get in was absolutely terrifying.
The recommendation letter was… a different issue.
Marinette didn’t want the others to know about this. They couldn’t. But she feared that if she asked Mme. Bustier to write a recommendation letter, the others would find out and that… wasn’t a fun thought.
Of course, she could always just ask Mme. Bustier to keep quiet about it. Mme. Bustier might ask why, but Marinette could just say that she didn’t want the others to now before she was certain that she got in.
That… could probably work.
With her decision made, Marinette found every sketchbook she had for design, and got to work.
Convincing Mme. Bustier to keep quiet about the recommendation letter was surprisingly easy. Marinette had a slight feeling that Mme. Bustier knew what was going on in the class, but she didn’t mention it.
What else had been surprising was finding Adrien waiting for her outside of the classroom.
“Hey Mari.” He said. He looked… sad.
“Hey, what’s up?” She asked, smiling politely.
“I uh… I thought I could walk you home today. If you wanted, I mean.”
Before, Marinette would probably have stammered off, most likely thanking him profusely too, but not now… Now, she just smiled and nodded.
“Was there something you wanted to talk to me about?” Marinette asked.
Adrien hadn’t really talked to her unless necessary for a while now. At first, Marinette wasn’t sure why he was avoiding her like everyone else, but then she overheard Nino talking to him about how being seen talking to her was a bad idea.
“Yeah, actually…” He looked down, seemingly unsure. “Are you okay? You’ve been… different, this past week.”
“I’m fine.” She said, with a slightly strained smile. “Just had a lot on my mind is all.”
“What did you need to talk to Mme. Bustier about?” Adrien asked.
“I just needed her help with something, nothing to worry about.” Marinette explained, without going into detail.
Adrien looked hesitant, and if Marinette wasn’t already so done with Dupont and everyone in her class, she probably would have been concerned. As of now though, Marinette had seen no sign of Adrien being as concerned for her as he was for Lila.
“You… You know you can talk to me, right? About anything.” He said.
“I know.” Marinette replied, but didn’t say anything else. Just because, theoretically, she could tell him anything, didn’t mean she was going to.
Adrien looked slightly hurt at her refusal to talk, but he didn’t say anything about it.
The atmosphere was awkward and tense, and once upon a time, Marinette would have tried to ease up the tension, but for now, she was fine with walking in stifling silence. She didn’t have to use her words on him if she didn’t want to. Clearly, the feeling was mutual.
“Well,” Adrien said. “We’re here.”
Marinette nodded in acknowledgement, gave him an awkward wave, before heading inside, not sparing him a second glance.
“You’ve really messed up this time, Kid.” Plagg said, after Marinette had disappeared.
Adrien sighed. “I know.”
“You told her you were in this together.” Plagg said.
Adrien sighed again, this time with clear frustration lacing its tone. “I know.”
“You knew something was wrong-“ Plagg started to say but was interrupted by Adrien.
“Yes, Plagg, I messed up big time! But what do you want me to do?” Adrien exclaimed, trying to keep his volume down as people walking past looked at him questionably.
“Geez Kid, calm down.” Plagg said. “Have you ever considered, I don’t know, apologizing to the girl?”
“How am I gonna do that when she doesn’t even want to talk to me?” Adrien asked.
“She seemed pretty polite despite everything, Kid, I’m sure she’d hear you out if you explained.” Plagg tried to reason.
“You don’t know her like I do, Plagg. That may have seemed polite, but Marinette has never been this cold to me before.” Adrien worried.
“Well I don’t really know, and I don’t really care, as long as you start heading home so I can get some food to eat.” Plagg said, though that wasn’t completely true. He did care for Tikki’s holder, she seemed like a good kid, but it was clear Adrien wasn’t going to listen to him at this point.
So, he just sighed and hoped things would get better by itself.
“Adrien seemed worried about you, Marinette.” Tikki said, once Marinette had gotten up to her room and let Tikki out of her purse.
“I know but… I guess I just… don’t care anymore?” Marinette sighed, slumping down in her chaise. “It’s confusing though, and a little infuriating really. He turns a blind eye when he sees everyone ganging up on me, but the moment he can talk to me alone without any preying eyes, he suddenly cares?” Marinette shrugged as she tried to explain to her kwami. “It just feels… fake to me, I guess.”
Tikki nodded at her chosen’s explanation. When put that way, it did sound kind of bad.
“But it seems like he feels bad about it, doesn’t it?” Tikki asked, trying to mend the broken bond between the two holders.
“It feels more like pity to me.” Marinette mumbled bitterly.
If Adrien wasn’t going to talk to her where the others could see, then she saw no reason to talk to him when they were alone. He made his choice, he didn’t get to ignore her struggles and then act like he cared, that just felt half-assed and ingenuine.
“Ladybug should always be forgiving.” Tikki tried.
“What is there to forgive if he doesn’t seem apologetic?” Marinette asked. “I’m not going to try if he isn’t, that’s not fair to me. I’m tired of being forgiving, simply for the fact that I have to be the better person.”
Tikki was quiet after that.
It was the weekend, finally, and Marinette sat outside in her lounge chair, allowing herself to relax.
She had been working on her scholarship application all week, and even took the last three days off from school just to focus on it.
She obviously didn’t tell the class about why she was absent, only Mme. Bustier, who was fine with Marinette deciding to focus her attention on her application.
Now it was the weekend, and Marinette could confidently say that her application was done. All she could do now was wait and hope for the best.
So being able to sit outside and just breathe for a moment felt like a gift and being able to relax and say she had done everything she could felt good.
So of course, her wonderful Saturday afternoon had to be interrupted by a cat.
“Why hello Princess,” Chat Noir said as he landed on her balcony railing. “You seem to be in quite a good mood.”
“What are you doing here Chat?” Marinette asked, unsure of why her partner would visit her civilian identity. “Is there another akuma?”
“Can’t I just come and visit my favorite civilian?” Chat asked, only to be faced with Marinette’s deadpan expression. “Really! I was just on a stroll and thought I might stop by.” He explained.
Marinette didn’t look convinced, but she didn’t pry into it.
“So, any reason for why you seem to be so happy?” Chat asked.
“What, I can’t just be happy?” Marinette asked, but she had a teasing grin on her face. “Truth be told, I’m just a lot less stressed than I have been for the past two weeks.” She said.
Chat cocked his head to the side questioningly.
“I’m transferring to a new school.” Marinette said, Chat’s eyes widening. “Or well, that’s the goal. I just finished my scholarship application, now I just have to cross my fingers.”
Chat looked shaken by the information, smiling awkwardly.
“May I ask what made you decide to transfer, Princess?” Chat asked, his voice wavering slightly.
Marinette raised an eyebrow questioningly but didn’t say anything about Chat’s behavior.
“Truth be told, I’ve been kinda depressed at school for the past two months.” Marinette said, looking down at the ground as she stood beside Chat. “I wasn’t planning on transferring in the beginning, but then I wrote to my Nonna about a situation at my school, and she said that sometimes, it’s okay to be a bit selfish, that it’s necessary even, and that’s when I decided to do something for myself.” Marinette explained.
“There’s no point for me to stay somewhere I’m not wanted, especially if I’m miserable there, so…” Marinette shrugged. “I’m leaving Dupont. Even if I don’t get into the school I applied to, I’m not staying there.”
Chat looked pale at her explanation, but Marinette had no idea why that would be. It wasn’t like he knew what was going on anyway.
“Where did you apply?” Chat asked, his voice higher than normal.
“Académie Voltaire.” Marinette said. “It’s a pretty high-class school, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t get in, but it’s worth a shot. I wasn’t even attending class for the past three days just so I could focus on my application.”
“And you really want to get in?” Chat asked.
“More than anything.”
“She’s transferring Plagg, transferring!” Adrien exclaimed. “How did I not notice how bad she was feeling before?”
“Well would you have done things differently if you knew?” Plagg asked.
Adrien was about to answer that absolutely he would have done things differently, but then he thought about it, how the class went against Marinette, Marinette, without a second thought. About what would have happened if he was the one, they turned on.
“I… don’t know.” Adrien said in defeat, slumping in his bed. “I want to help her but…”
“But you don’t want to sacrifice yourself in the process.” Plagg finished.
Adrien winced at the words, but he didn’t try to deny it.
Plagg sighed. “Look Kid, there’s not much you can do for her now, other than apologize and support her decision of leaving.” Plagg said. “I would have left too if I was her.” He mumbled quietly.
“That just doesn’t feel like… enough. It’s my fault she’s even feeling like this in the first place.” Adrien said. He looked out his window in thought, trying to think of something he could do.
“Hey Plagg, do you know anything about Académie Voltaire?” Adrien asked suddenly.
“No? Why would I know anything about it?”
Adrien then looked at his computer and got up from his bed.
There must have been something he could do.
The days waiting for her letter from Voltaire went excruciatingly slow, in Marinette’s opinion.
It probably didn’t help that she still had to be at Dupont while she waited, but hopefully her patience would have been worth it.
Adrien had been acting… weird towards her though, if Marinette had to be honest. Nicer. She couldn’t figure out why though.
Marinette had overheard Nino warning Adrien again, about how it was a bad idea to be around her, but Adrien just said that despite what Marinette had done, she still deserved a bit of common decency.
Marinette didn’t know what to think about that.
He walked her home often too, and while at the beginning, it was a bit annoying, Marinette started to enjoy talking to someone other than Tikki.
Marinette felt… appreciated, and she didn’t realize how bittersweet that thought felt until fat tears were rolling down her cheeks one night and Tikki tried to calm her down.
He should know that she would be gone, Marinette thought suddenly, after she had finally stopped crying. It wouldn’t be fair to him that he was doing this, for her to just disappear.
Marinette asked what Tikki thought about telling Adrien, and Tikki was all for it.
Had Marinette forgiven Adrien completely? No, and she probably wouldn’t for a very long time. But he was trying, and it was something, and for once since this Lila mess started, Marinette felt wanted. Like she actually existed and mattered.
Marinette woke with a start as Sabine’s voice went booming through her room.
“I’m up! I’m up and I’m not running late, I swear!” She yelled as she scrambled off her bed.
Sabine just laughed from where she was standing, watching her daughter run around her room, trying to get ready as fast as possible.
“While that’s good Marinette, I have a letter that’s addressed to you.” That stopped Marinette dead in her tracks, and she snapped her head to her mother who was holding an envelope, one with Voltaire’s school crest on it.
Marinette ran towards her mother faster than Sabine thought possible, and reached for the letter, but Sabine held the letter away from her.
“Why don’t you open in downstairs with Papa and I?” Sabine said, a gentle smile on her lips. Marinette just nodded and hurried downstairs, Sabine following close behind her.
Marinette found Tom already sitting on the couch, waiting patiently, when she came downstairs. Marinette realized her parents must have closed the bakery for this.
Sabine joined her husband on the couch, handing Marinette the letter, but Marinette remained standing.
She looked at the letter, then at her parents, her hands shaking.
“It’s going to be okay, sweetie.” Tom said reassuringly. “Even if you don’t get in, you did your best.”
Marinette nodded, then looked at the letter in her hands, letting out a shaky breath.
Shutting her eyes tight, Marinette ripped the envelope open and took out the letter, folding it out.
Slowly, she opened one of her eyes, reading.
Congratulations, you’ve been accepted…
The scream she let out could be heard all the way to Dupont.
Marinette didn’t end up going to school that day, deciding to instead stay home and help at the bakery.
Still, she kept an eye on the clock for when school would end, having something important to do.
When that time finally came, she left her parents with kisses on the cheek, as she went to Dupont to talk to Adrien.
She didn’t enter the school when she arrived though, instead choosing to wait at the side of the building, watching students leave without noticing her.
She had texted Adrien, so hopefully he wouldn’t just go.
Marinette spotted Adrien walking out of the school and waved her hand until he spotted her and walked over.
“You texted me earlier saying you had something important to tell me. Why weren’t you at school today?” He asked.
“I’m transferring to a new school.” Marinette said, looking him in the eyes before looking to the side. “I got my acceptance letter today, so I won’t be coming to Dupont anymore.”
Adrien’s eyes were wide, seemingly surprised, but looking at him, it almost felt like he already knew.
“Where are you going to go?” Adrien asked.
And just like that, Marinette told him about Voltaire with stars in her eyes, excitement in her step, as he walked with her to the bakery for the last time.
“Could you… do me a favor?” Marinette asked when they finally reached her home.
“What is it?”
“Could you not tell anyone about this?” Marinette looked to the side. “I… kind of don’t want the others to know about it…” Marinette trailed off, only to look up at Adrien when he placed a hand on her shoulder, a reassuring smile on his face.
“Of course, I won’t say a word.”
Marinette hugged him so tightly he felt like he couldn’t breathe, but he just hugged her back, a silent apology for all the things he didn’t do.
The day the students at Dupont realized that Marinette wasn’t coming to school was… memorable, to say the least.
It was a Monday, and it had started like any other day.
The students came in, they talked to their friends for a bit before the bell rang, and they got to their seats.
Nothing was out of the ordinary, Marinette was probably just late like usual, or maybe sick like she had been a lot this past week.
Or maybe Lila was right, and Marinette was skipping school, it wouldn’t surprise Alya at least.
Still, Alya couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, and halfway through the class, raised her hand.
“Is Marinette not coming today?” Asked Alya, once Mme. Bustier had picked her.
Everyone else in the class looked around, seeming to realize for the first time since school started that Marinette was absent, except for Adrien, who just shrank a little in his seat.
It was Marinette’s first day at Voltaire.
“Marinette has transferred to a new school.” Mme. Bustier said, a slight edge to her voice.
“Why?” Alya asked, betrayal coursing through her veins, anger spiking up in her.
“I think you know why, Mlle. Césaire.” Mme. Bustier said coolly.
“It’s not because of me, is it?” Lila asked, tears welling up in her eyes. “I knew she didn’t like me but… I should have tried harder!”
This made the class explode, all jumping to calm Lila, saying Marinette was just being petty, that she was overreacting and being a bitch, Lila soaking it all up.
“If that’s the reason why she transferred, then thank god she’s done.” Alya snapped.
The display left a bitter taste in Adrien’s mouth, realizing more than ever how he fucked up.
Was that what the class had been saying to Marinette all this time?
Adrien had never been happier about asking his father to write that recommendation letter to the school than he did now.
It didn’t take much convincing on his part, his father surprisingly going along with writing to Voltaire about Marinette, how she was an excellent designer and would be a great addition to the school. And it was true, his father did think Marinette was an excellent designer in training, and surprisingly happy that she decided to transfer there.
“I believe it would truly help her evolve as a designer.” His father had said once he had sent the mail to the school.
Adrien didn’t even have to agree to extra photoshoots for his father to do it.
Still, watching the class now, he can’t help but be mad at himself for turning a blind eye.
“Actually,” Adrien spoke up, the class turning to him. “She transferred so she could focus more on fashion design.” He defended her, even if she wasn’t there now. Maybe it was too late now, but it was something, wasn’t it?
“How would you know that?” Alya asked, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“I overheard her talking to Mme. Bustier about it.” He replied with a shrug.
The class then turned their gazes on Mme. Bustier, looking for some sort of confirmation.
“That is correct,” Mme. Bustier said, nodding at Adrien. “She wished to keep it a secret, in case her application was turned down.” She explained, giving them the reason Marinette had given her.
“Why wouldn’t she tell me she was going to transfer?” Alya asked confused.
“You can ask her that yourself after school,” Mme. Bustier said. “We have a class to resume.”
And with that, everyone got back to their seats, whispers being shared about where Marinette might possibly be attending, and if that really was the reason she decided to leave.
Alya doubted her teacher, instead looking at Lila, and feeling anger swell up inside her towards Marinette.
They were best friends; Marinette should have told her!
Alya would have wanted to be there when she found out whether or not she was accepted, she would have wanted to celebrate this with Marinette, to tell her that it was great she was focusing on her passion.
Instead, Alya didn’t even get a damn goodbye.
Marinette was nervous.
Scratch that, nervous didn’t even begin to cover it.
She felt like she was going to throw up, pass out, then throw up whilst being passed out, choking in her own barf because holly molly Marinette had not been this scared since she first became Ladybug.
Still, there was a certain giddiness in her chest too, excitement fluttering in her chest like a swarm of butterflies, just waiting to escape.
It almost felt like she was walking on air with every step she took, though that might have just been her light headedness form the nerves.
Marinette had prepared herself for this new start, this new beginning, and she had started preparing the best way she knew how, and that was through her style.
She didn’t change a lot, pink was still the main color, Marinette now wearing a soft pink overall dress, with a light grey sweater underneath. It was simple and soft, not very attention grabbing, but still stylish.
When she applied for Voltaire, she was afraid that it would have limited what she was allowed to wear, but she found that the only requirement was the school’s crest being somewhere, whether that would be one’s clothes or bag. Marinette had decided to add the crest on the big front pocket on her dress, it being ironed on as a patch.
Her hair was mostly the same, now just being French braided before becoming pigtails. It was a small detail, but one Marinette liked, tying her hair with soft pink ribbons to bring it all together.
The outfit change helped her feel like something was actually different, reminded her that she wasn’t going back to Dupont.
“I’m ready!” Marinette yelled as she ran downstairs.
Her parents were going to open the bakery later than normal, choosing instead to follow their daughter to the metro.
“You look wonderful, Sweetie.” Sabine complimented as they left.
“Thank you, Maman!” Marinette beamed, assuming her mother was talking about her clothes, which she partially was, but…
As Sabine looked over her daughter, she noted all the subtle differences in her demeanor since she was accepted into Voltaire.
Marinette was standing straighter, her smile seemed to be brighter, she was humming, and there was even a subtle skip in her step.
Sabine smiled. They had made the right decision.
Voltaire was big. Very big.
It was overwhelming, put simply.
Marinette had known that Voltaire was big, before she even came there. She had checked the school out a lot online. She also had a tour of the premises that Saturday, but now that she stood at the big mahogany doors Monday morning, it felt as if all of the information from the tour was gone, out the window with her courage and bravery.
She took in a deep breath. She was Ladybug, damnit, she had faced worse things than a new school. Even if that school was big and fancy and had a lot of rich students in it. She could do this!
And with that, Marinette took her first official step into Voltaire.
Only to be run into a moment later and fall to the floor.
“Owie…” She said quietly from the ground, rubbing her tailbone with a wince.
“I am so sorry!” A voice exclaimed.
Marinette looked up, finding herself looking at a boy looming over her.
“I- It’s okay, I didn’t notice you at all.” Marinette said, standing up.
“No! I should have looked where I was going and-“ The boy snapped his head to up to look at her, his eyes narrowing, before widening with what seemed to be fear. “You’re new. I ran into a new student.” His voice was light with disbelief and terror, and Marinette was quick to try and reassure.
“It’s okay! This sort of stuff happens to me all the time, hehe…” Marinette trailed off awkwardly.
Suddenly, the boy stood completely straight, before flourishing with his arms and going into deep bow.
“You have my most sincere apology, My Lady.” He looked up at her, grinning. “The name is Claude, a pleasure to meet you.”
Claude was tall, Marinette’s gaze level with his chest, rather than his blue eyes. He had brown hair that was slightly messy, but Marinette guessed that it had more to do with him running, and less to do with how he styled it. His clothes were simple, a white t-shirt with angled blue lines that formed a V on his chest, and black jeans.
He reminded her a lot of Chat Noir, Marinette thought absentmindedly, noting the way he acted.
Grinning, she went into a curtsy.
“Why hello Claude, the pleasure is all mine.” Marinette said. “My name is Marinette.”
“Well Marinette,” Claude said, coming out of his bow, Marinette following suit. “As an apology, would it be alright if I escorted you to your destination?” He asked, brandishing his arm.
Marinette smiled, hooking her arm with his. “I would be delighted.”
“Say, where are you headed?”
“To a M. Labelle’s class?” Marinette responded.
Claude’s grin seemed to widen. “Looks like we’ll be in the same class, fair maiden.” He said.
“Well let’s hope my other classmates won’t run into me, then.” Marinette said, and Claude hung his dramatically. Marinette just patted his arm in comfort.
“The others are gonna love you, I can already tell.” Claude said.
“Others?” Marinette asked.
“You’ll see.” Was all he said, flashing her a grin.
Arriving in class, Marinette was met with a person who looked so much like Nino, Marinette felt the air leave her lungs for a moment, like she had been punched in the stomach.
She tensed up, but didn’t say anything, and Claude didn’t seem to notice as he brought Marinette over to the table with the Nino lookalike.
“Did you kidnap a student?” The boy, who wore a green newsboy cap, asked Claude, grinning.
“I did no such thing.” Claude responded, turning his nose up to the air dramatically. Cap boy just rolled his eyes.
“I’m Allan, Claude’s common sense.” He introduced himself, offering his hand while Claude cried out in designation.
Marinette relaxed slightly, shaking his hand with a small smile. Nino flashed in her mind again, and with him came Alya, and now it was all Marinette could think about.
Still, as Allan flashed her a grin, Marinette reminded herself of the subtle differences between the two, and let herself breathe again.
“I’m Marinette, it’s nice to meet you.” Marinette replied.
Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.
Allan and Claude were like two peas in a pod, Marinette observed.
Apparently, Claude had been a student at Voltaire since he was eleven, while Allan came later, and when he did, Claude had “kidnapped” him, much like he had Marinette.
“I just like meeting new people!” Claude explained with a broad grin on his face. Allan just rolled his eyes.
They had been best friends since they met, and Claude just brought in more people to their little group, Allegra and Félix.
“Allegra is going to love you; she’s been dying to get another girl into our group.” Allan said.
“And Félix…” Claude trailed off. “Félix doesn’t really like people. Any people. He doesn’t even like me!” Claude exclaimed, and Marinette snickered.
“I wonder why.” She said sarcastically.
“Allegra will definitely like you.” Allan said with a proud nod, Claude protesting once again.
The rest of the classes before lunch went smoothly, and Marinette was happily surprised to find that she could actually keep up with the other students. She had expected that she would have been far more behind, but that luckily wasn’t the case.
“Now it may seem like we’re throwing you to the wolves,” Claude started as they headed towards the cafeteria, Marinette’s eyes widening. “but don’t worry, we’ll protect you.” He finished, throwing his arm around her shoulder.
Allan grinned at her expression, throwing his arm around her as well. “You’ve already met Claude, so Allegra and Félix should be nothing.” Claude yelled in the background in protest.
Still, as they drew closer to their destination, Marinette could hear the pounding of her heart in her own ears, her posture stiffening, and she took in a deep breath to calm herself.
Claude and Allan shared worried glances over her head.
Once the doors of the grand cafeteria opened, noise filled Marinette’s ears, tethering her to the here and now, grounding her with the weight of the arms around her shoulders.
While Marinette looked around the room curiously, Claude and Allan led her to a table were two blondes sat, seemingly in a deep debate.
Without looking up, the girl, whom Marinette could only assume was Allegra, spoke.
“Claude, explain to this plebian how Batman is better than Ironman, please.” She said, her eyes narrowed at the blonde boy seated in front of her.
Allegra was pretty, Marinette noted once she got a better look at the girl. She had long blonde hair that was tied up in a braid, and her skin was lightly tanned. Her clothes were simple, grey jeans, white turtleneck and a purple sweater vest.
“Allan, please tell this imbecile how Ironman is far superior to Batman in every way.” The boy, Félix most likely, said to Allan, his eyes focused on Allegra.
Félix was dressed far more formally than the rest of the group, wearing black dress pants, a white button-up with a grey vest, as well as a dark grey tie.
“Why don’t we let Marinette be the tiebreaker?” Claude asked, which seemed to snap the two blondes out of their staring contest, turning their eyes to Marinette instead, the girl in question squirming under their gazes.
“Uhm…” Marinette said awkwardly as everyone was silent. “Hi?”
“Claude, did you kidnap another student?” Allegra said accusingly.
“Hey!” Claude exclaimed. “I’ll have you know I actually ran into her.” He said, as if that was better.
“So, Marinette,” Allan said, bringing everyone’s attention back. “Ironman or Batman?”
Marinette looked around at everyone in panic, all of whom seeming to be very interested in her answer.
“Uhm… Ironman?” Marinette said, doubt lacing her words.
Claude looked at her with an expression that could only be described as betrayal and hurt.
“Oh, My Lady, how could you!” He exclaimed dramatically, extracting his arm from her shoulder in favor taking his hand to his forehead. “Catch me, I think I might faint.”
He began to fall, Marinette and Allan taking a step back in sync, the faint whisper of what seemed to be betrayal escaping Claude’s lip in his descent.
Allegra looked at Claude, then at Marinette, a grin growing on her lips.
“I like you.” She said, then her eyes narrowed. “Even if you are wrong.”
“I actually think you’re wrong this time, ‘Legra.” Allan said, sitting down beside the girl, Marinette sitting herself down beside him and Claude taking a seat beside Félix.
“How could I possibly be wrong about this?” She asked, crossing her arms.
Allan opened his mouth to speak, but Marinette beat him to it.
“Well, Ironman got to where he is because of his intelligence, while Batman got there because of his money.” Marinette said in thought. “Plus, the portrayal of Tony Stark is actually based on a real person so…” Marinette shrugged. “But I also prefer Marvel over DC, so I might be a bit biased…” Marinette trailed off, squirming a bit as she noticed the group staring at her, before Allan broke the tension.
“Exactly!” He exclaimed loudly, and the debate continued.
Marinette sighed loudly as her body hit her bed, some of the tension melting off of her shoulders.
“How are you feeling, Marinette?” Tikki asked, nibbling on a cookie.
“Tired.” Marinette answered with a sigh, a smile starting to take over her features. “Happy.”
The day had gone well in Marinette’s opinion. After the big superhero debate during lunch, she learned a bit more about the group, or the Quantic Kids, as Claude called them for some reason.
They seemed like good people, maybe she could grow to trust them.
Marinette then looked to her phone.
Ever since she changed her number, it only dinged with messages from her parents. They were the only ones who knew her number by now. The messages from Mme. Bustier’s class had become too much.
Marinette then looked towards the pile of papers on her desk, all the photos and of her former classmates, as well as all the letters she had written.
She got up from her bed, determined, and went down to her desk to retrieve the papers, before going outside on her balcony, grabbing a large, clear vase that was about half a meter tall, and a big candle.
Once outside with everything, she put the large candle into the vase, lighting it with a match, before grabbing the first photo of the pile and looked at it.
It was a polaroid of her and Alya making bunny ears at each other, big grins on their faces.
Marinette looked up at the sky, then down at the picture, letting out a sigh, before putting the picture down into the vase and onto the candles flame.
She could move on, Marinette decided, even if it hurt.
It was harder to move on than Marinette thought.
Maybe it was because she’d never had to move on before. Betrayal wasn’t exactly something she had experienced before, and it wasn’t like she had ever been in a relationship.
So, Marinette was slightly distant from the other Quantic Kids.
She didn’t really notice in the beginning, on her first day, but then suddenly it was Tuesday, and talking to Claude seemed like the most intimidating thing.
“Why hello there, fair Lady, how was your night?” Claude asked when Marinette came to the entrance at Voltaire.
He must have waited for her, Marinette realized.
“It’s- uh- it’s been good?” She said awkwardly. Great.
Claude just raised an eyebrow but shrug it off. Marinette was new, of course she wouldn’t be completely comfortable yet.
So, they walked to class in silence, Marinette looking anywhere but at Claude.
Marinette had thought, yesterday, when she burned basically all of her memories, that it was over. That she wouldn’t think about her old classmates every time she looked at her new one. Yet still, their comments, every whispered word, every message sent, rang in her head as an echo when she chatted with the others.
It was frustrating. It was annoying. It was… depressing. It made Marinette sad. She was starting to beat herself up over it and she didn’t know what to do. Give it time? She didn’t have time.
“So, what was your old school like?” Allegra’s voice broke Marinette out of her thoughts at lunch, jarring her back to reality.
The question, in all it’s innocence, felt like a slap in Marinette’s face, a slap that she was not prepared for.
It wasn’t like she hadn’t expected the question not to come, and to be honest she was surprised that it took them this long to ask.
Still, what in the world was she supposed to tell them? She wasn’t going to tell them about Lila, she knew that much. She didn’t want that one experience to define her, and it was also none of their business whatsoever.
“It was- uh- it was good.” Marinette said, popping her lips and nodding.
Smooth Mari, real smooth.
Marinette had a feeling that Tikki was facepalming in her purse at the very moment.
“I had a good teacher. I mean, my science teacher was pretty strict, but she was good at what she did.” Marinette continued, a little less awkward. “Any teachers I should be prepared for here?” Marinette diverted the subject.
When the others started listing off different teachers to look out for, Marinette breathed out a sigh of relief.
They didn’t have to know.
The following month at Voltaire had been… awkward for Marinette. She spent her time with the Quantic Kids and grew to know them better. She still went to see Master Fu every Wednesday, just to be safe, and it helped to have someone to talk to about the responsibilities of being Ladybug.
There were certain topics she didn’t touch.
Marinette never mentioned why she transferred so late, never told the Quantic Kids about Dupont, largely just pretending it didn’t happen.
She never invited them to her home either. And Marinette had planned on keeping this careful distance between Voltaire forever if she could.
That’s when the nightmare happened.
Marinette had woken with a start, breathing heavily, distantly noting Tikki hovering beside her head, saying… something, Marinette wasn’t entirely sure what, the world around her feeling fuzzy.
She couldn’t even remember what the nightmare was about until after she managed to calm down, rubbing her duvet between her fingers, going through breathing exercises. When she did calm down however, the memories of the nightmare hit her with full force, and she could feel the tears welling up in her eyes again.
She shut them tight, taking in a shaky breath, before slowly opening them again.
It had been going so well, but maybe her subconscious was telling her something for once.
Marinette looked at her clock, checking the time. She would have to get ready soon.
Marinette sighed, dragging her hands down her face, before getting out of bed and dressing for school, waiting for her alarm to go off before heading downstairs and eating breakfast, her parents already down in the bakery and working.
She really didn’t want to deal with this. She wasn’t ready to confront whatever it was her mind was telling her to confront. If she could, Marinette would much rather just… she didn’t know.
It was going to be a long day.
Marinette didn’t even spare Claude and Allan a glance when she took her seat, just kept her head down and took out her tablet, preparing for class.
Obviously, neither Claude nor Allan had any idea about what was going on, but Claude was mentally berating himself, despite knowing that whatever happened to Marinette wasn’t his fault.
Still, he had known that something was wrong before, and he couldn’t shake that his inaction was part of the reason she was giving them the cold shoulder, even as the bell rung for their first break of the day.
As soon as it sounded, Marinette got up and quickly left, not saying a word to the dup, who could only look at her with concern and worry.
“Did we do something, you think?” Allan asked Claude, his brows furrowed as he tried to think of something that might have happened.
“Not that I know of but… You’ve seen how she acts sometimes too, haven’t you?”
Allan sighed, because as much as he hated to admit it, he had noticed it too.
Marinette was a good person, that was something that neither of them doubted, but there was clearly something going on that prevented her from trusting them.
“Do you think I did something to offend her when we first met?” Allan asked absent mindedly.
“Not that I can think of… maybe you just remind her of something?” Claude guessed.
Marinette let out a sigh.
She had somehow succeeded in finding a secluded area in the gardens, a beautiful area really, filled with flowers in so many colors, Marinette wished she could take them with her and plant them on her balcony.
She was frustrated with herself. It shouldn’t be this hard to trust again, and she was starting to become annoyed at herself every time she ruined the atmosphere.
Marinette had decided to move on, hadn’t she? So why was it so hard to do?
“I don’t know what to do, Tikki.” Marinette sighed, sitting herself down on the ground.
“You should trust them Marinette, don’t let one bad experience ruin something that could be great.” Tikki encouraged.
“I know, it’s just… hard.” Marinette slumped. “It would be easier if I had someone to talk to about this, and I know I have you and Master, but it’s just…”
“Different.” Tikki finished knowingly.
Marinette really did want to trust the Quantic Kids, and she was starting to, but know all she could think of was that nightmare, at the front of her mind, reminding her of why that just couldn’t happen.
When Marinette decided to leave Dupont, it hadn’t felt like she had let Lila win. This decision would ultimately make Marinette happier, right? But now, Lila had an influence on her, on the way she acted around others, and for the first time since her transfer, Marinette felt like she had lost.
It was with that thought the tears started to well up, Tikki snuggling her cheek as a type of comfort.
“Marinette not joining us?” Allegra asked.
It was now lunch, and things were still tense around Marinette.
When their first break had ended, Marinette had come back to the class looking off. Claude couldn’t put his finger on what, but he was feeling more frustrated than ever over the situation.
“She hasn’t talked to us all day.” Allan said, clearly frustrated too.
Félix raised a brow. “Really?”
“She won’t even look at us.” Claude grumbled.
“Well that’s just rude.” Allegra noted, eyebrows furrowed, offended on her friends’ behalf.
“We don’t know what happened.” Allan said. “If we did, we would have talked to her already, but she’s been avoiding us.”
Félix hummed in thought.
“Please excuse me, I’ll be back.” He said, then he stood and left the group.
“What do you think he’s gonna do?” Claude asked.
“I hope he’s not planning on yelling at her.” Allan said. Allegra scoffed.
“She would deserve it.” She grumbled. “But Fé is too composed to actually yell at her.”
Marinette was in the garden again, eating her food alone. She still didn’t want to talk to the others.
Maybe this was for the best anyway. There was no risk now, and she could focus on designing more this way.
“You have quite some nerve, don’t you?” Félix’ cold voice asked, unmistakable in the mostly quiet garden, save for Marinette’s sniffles.
“Sorry.” She said, voice hoarse. She didn’t turn around to look at him though.
Félix didn’t know what he would find when he went to look for Marinette, but her sniffling in a secluded section of the garden was not one of them.
Sighing, he sat down beside her, surprising Marinette.
“I didn’t trust the others at first.” He said suddenly, breaking the silence first.
Marinette looked at him from the corner of her eye but didn’t turn her head.
“It was just the way I was brought up. When you have a lot of money, it’s often the first thing people see.” He said. He turned his head to look at her. “But that’s not why you are distrustful, is it?”
Marinette shook her head, sighing.
“I used to be really close with my classmates.” She said. “I mean, some of them, I knew from kindergarten.” She smiled bitterly at the memory. “I did everything for them; I would always try and put them first, no matter what.
“Then this new girl started,” Marinette frowned. “or rather, she returned. She had started a couple of months back, before disappearing for a while, she claimed she had been travelling when she returned though, and with a hearing problem to boot. To help her with that, she got a seat at the front, but rather than just moving one student, everyone moved.” Marinette’s eyes furrowed, frustration clear.
“Thing is though, I wasn’t in class at that point yet, and they just- moved me to the back, alone and away from my friends, before asking if I was okay with it first. When I came to class, they had just assumed I would have been okay with it, so when I got mad at them for doing that, they all turned on me pretty quickly. That was how it all started.” Marinette sighed.
“Then came Lila, that new girl, and threatened me. I knew she was lying about pretty much everything she claimed, and so she told me that I was either with her or against her. She said she would make everyone hate me. I didn’t believe her.” Marinette’s brows furrowed. “But then it happened, and slowly but surely, I was cut off from the class. They would talk about me behind my back, message me, calling me a jealous bitch and telling me to calm down.”
Marinette hugged her legs to her chest, resting her head on her knees. She wasn’t really paying Félix much attention anymore, more focused on reliving her time with Lila.
“That didn’t stop them from asking things from me though. Fixing or making clothes for events I was never invited to, designing and making banners for races I was never told about, baking snacks for picnics I wasn’t allowed at. Of course, I never got anything in return, I was just doing what was expected of me.” Marinette hugged her legs tighter. “And if I didn’t do it, they’d get mad at me, yell at and belittle me. I was convenient, nothing but the solution to whatever problem they’d inevitably have.”
Marinette turned her head on her knees, looking at Félix for the first time since he came out here, looking for her.
“I’m really sorry.” She told him earnestly. “I just don’t want to be the solution anymore.” She whispered, her throat tightening.
Before she started crying again though, she coughed, clearing her throat.
“I had a nightmare and you all hated me and I just,” Marinette sighed, burying her head in her knees. “I didn’t want to risk it happening again.”
Félix hadn’t said anything throughout her entire explanation, and Marinette was sure that he was just going to leave, which was why she was pleasantly surprised when she felt his arms encircling her in an embrace, first loosely, but then tighter when Marinette burrowed her head in his chest.
“I’m sorry you had to go through that.” He said eventually. “And I know that, at the moment, the words may seem empty, but we would not do that to you.”
Marinette just nodded, not lifting her head.
She was comfortable here, and she was starting to get a headache from all the crying she had been doing.
“Do you feel like going inside and see the others?” He asked eventually, and to be honest, no, she didn’t, but she also knew she had to at some point, so Marinette nodded, and slowly untangled herself from him.
He gave her a hand up, and then left a hand at the small of her back, letting it stay, presence grounding.
When the two came back to the cafeteria, Marinette with puffy red eyes and Félix glaring at anyone who dared to look at her, Claude immediately shut up from his seat, running up to Marinette and hugging her tightly.
Marinette stiffened at first, then relaxed, hugging him back and whispered “sorry” over and over again.
Eventually, they all sat down, Marinette sticking beside Félix, and Félix keeping a hand on her back.
“I…” Marinette started, but stopped again, unsure of what to say. Taking a deep breath, she willed herself to continue. “Would you guys like to come over to my place after school?”
It was quiet at the table, and Marinette sternly kept her gaze down, not wanting to look at the others.
“I thought you would never ask!” Claude exclaimed, and Marinette snapped her head up, seeing all of them.
The tension slowly left her body, and for the first time since she started, Marinette smiled a fully genuine smile.
“Welcome.” Marinette said, only slightly awkward, her eyes darting around her pink room, looking anywhere but at the group of teens she had invited home.
The introduction to her parents had gone well, if not slightly tense. The Dupain-Chengs seemed distrustful, though the Quantic Kids (save for Félix) had no idea why.
It probably didn’t help that they had to go in through the back. Marinette had spotted some of her old classmates inside the bakery and didn’t hesitate a second before changing direction.
Marinette still hadn’t talked to Alya at all, she wasn’t sure if she was ever going to, but at the moment, when bringing her new friends with her to the bakery, a confrontation didn’t seem like a good idea.
When Marinette told the driver to make another turn, her friends all looked at her with a raised eyebrow. Marinette just shrugged, scrunching her face up slightly. She would tell them later.
Now it was later.
Félix sat beside her, a calming presence that Marinette found she was starting to depend on since he found her in the garden at lunch.
She looked around at all of their faces, trying to read them.
Allegra looked guarded, which didn’t surprise Marinette in the slightest. She had been the most hesitant in letting Marinette join their little group, and Marinette had probably done little to deserve her trust.
Allegra sat straight, posture perfect, eyes narrowed, sitting on her legs.
Marinette didn’t look at her too long before turning her gaze to Claude.
Claude looked confused. Marinette had given them the cold shoulder all day, then suddenly Félix is with her on the cafeteria, and it didn’t take a genius to guess that she had been crying her eyes out before that.
His eyes were furrowed, his legs crossed, and he was leaning forward slightly, as if it would help him hear what was going on in Marinette’s head.
Then Marinette turned to look at Allan.
He seemed to be the most calm and open of the three, a reassuring smile on his lips, if only slightly hesitant, but Marinette could see it in his eyes, he had questions.
Marinette sighed, crumbling in on herself slightly, protectively, settling her gaze on her fuzzy pink carpet.
Félix jus put his hand on her back, rubbing it slowly.
“Before I try and start… explaining myself, I want to- I want to apologize for how I was behaving today. It was rude and uncalled for, especially after you had all been nice enough to let me into the group.”
Marinette didn’t turn her gaze back up at the group to look at them, she just continued to look down, trying to find the words.
“I… It started-“ She let out an irritated sigh, trying to find the right words. “Before I went to Voltaire, I went to another school close by. When the school year started, I wasn’t supposed to transfer. I never really thought it was something I would have to do.
“I used to get bullied. A lot. I would never stand up for myself, I’d just- let it happen. The other students didn’t really do anything, probably scared that the bully would turn on them, and the teachers… well, I didn’t tell them anything, and if they saw, they’d turn a blind eye. My bully was the mayor’s daughter, and the mayor sponsored the school, so…” Marinette shrugged. “Then… last year, this new girl started. She was obsessed with superheroes, she was confidant, and she believed in doing the right thing. And she stood up for me.
“She became my best friend.” Marinette’s throat tightened, tears welling up in her eyes, but she didn’t stop. “She helped me become more confidant. She believed in me. She told me, that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good people do nothing. I started standing up for others like she did for me. I got friends who cared about me, who liked me. I grew confidant.” Félix winced at the sheer amount of disbelief and surprise in her voice.
“And then…” Marinette slumped in on herself again, her voice growing quiet. “Then things changed.”
And so, Marinette told them all about Lila. Of every errand Marinette had to run for things she wasn’t invited to, of every piece of clothes she had to fix or make, of all the things she had been discredited for.
Then she took out her old phone.
She read them every hateful comment, every swear word and accusation, almost robotically.
Félix had gone rigid when she did. Marinette had told him about it, but he hadn’t expected it to have been that bad.
“I got a new phone and number before transferring.” Marinette told them. “A gift from my parents, as an apology for not realizing what was going on.”
“For once, I had felt worthy. I had been built up and cared for by everyone, and everyone played a part in who I am now.” Her eyes narrowed. “I refuse to let the very people who built me up, tear me down again. So, I got some advice, made my first selfish decision in a very long time, and transferred.”
She dragged her hands down her face, drying tears away and trying to wake up more. It was a draining topic to talk about. She coughed, regaining her composure, straightening up, and finally, finally looking at all of them again.
“I… I had a nightmare last night.” She finally said. “I guess you all just kind of… stopped liking me?” Marinette shrugged.
She stopped and thought about it for a moment, trying to find the right words.
“You realized I was a waste.” She finally settled with.
Claude did not look happy about this, none of them really did, and if Marinette had to guess by the slight stilling of his hand, Félix wasn’t either.
“And I just- I’ve already been almost akumatized three times already, I didn’t want to risk it happening again.”
That seemed to snap Claude out of his stupor.
“Three times!?” He exclaimed. “You’re telling me you’ve almost been akumatized three times!?”
Allan raised an eyebrow, a mix of curious and worried. “Almost?”
“I have good self-control.” Marinette shrugged. “I…” She trailed off, trying to phrase it right. “I’m used to having a lot of responsibility, how I feel and react is just one of them. Others shouldn’t deal with it, and besides, there’s always another solution.”
There was complete silence in the pink room above the bakery for five solid seconds, before Marinette was tackled to the ground by three individuals, Félix jumping out of the way.
“Marinette!” Claude, Allan and Allegra wailed.
“You pure sweet innocent being!” Claude exclaimed, clinging to her tightly from her left side.
“Those bastards didn’t deserve you!” Allan cried from her right side.
“We will never hurt you like that!” Allegra wailed on top of her.
“We love you Marinette!” They all yelled, and Marinette found herself crying tears of happiness for the first time.
After that, it became easier for Marinette to be open about herself around the others. It felt like, for the first time since she started at Voltaire, that she was actually moving on mentally.
It was like a wall had finally broken down, and everything became just a little less awkward.
She allowed herself to laugh more openly at things, speak about herself, about her past experiences, and sometimes, Marinette wasn’t quite sure what she was supposed to do with this.
There was guilt. She would look at Dupont, at all her former friends coming and going from the school, and she would feel bad for feeling better.
Because they were still being used.
It was that one nagging piece of information that truly held her back from completely letting go. She felt responsible.
Marinette knew that, she didn’t owe those at Dupont anything. They had taken and taken and taken without a second thought from her.
But Marinette was still Ladybug.
She had talked to her Kwami about this sense of responsibility, and even with Master Fu, and they both understood her feeling of responsibility.
Marinette still wished she had someone else to talk to, someone who was actually in her situation, but she knew that wouldn’t be happening.
She didn’t tell the Quantic Kids about her guilt.
Even after opening up about everything that caused her to go to Voltaire in the first place, she didn’t talk much about how she felt about it all. She was moving on. That was all they knew.
Maybe she hadn’t learned to be completely open yet. Maybe she still didn’t know how to not shoulder every responsibility.
But she was getting closer to moving on. Properly.