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A Restart at Life

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Marinette was rushing to work.

Somehow, she had never managed to break the habit of being late constantly, but with Tikki now gone, she had had to learn.

And she did! Really. It’s just, every once in a while, she’d wake up a bit too late. That’s it.

Anyway, she had managed to secure a job as a personal assisstant at Wayne Enterprises in Gotham. She had a feeling it had been a stroke of luck to get such a good job, but she had no way to prove it.

Running into the building, she greeted the receptionist, (a sweet middle-aged woman named Sarah), and ran up to the office she was directed to.

Someone named Tam was her new boss.

When she got to the door, she knocked hesitantly.

“Come in!”

There was a dark-skinned woman behind the desk smiling. “You must be Marinette?”

“That’s me! And you’re Tam?”

“Nice to meet you.” They shook hands.

“You too!”

Tam looked over some files on the desk. “You’re my new PA?”

“If that stands for personal assistant, then yes.” She looked apologetic. “I’m sorry, I still have trouble with some English phrases. I know most of it, but the language is so confusing! Why are there so many double letters?”

Tam had to laugh at the distressed young woman. Patting her shoulder, she said, “It’s perfectly fine. Honestly, it’s my first language, and I still don’t get it sometimes. Are you French?”

“Yes, I’m from Paris.”

“If you want, I can switch to French. I’m fairly fluent, but I can always use the practice.”

“Thank you! That would be so nice.”

No problem, Marinette. I just have to give these papers to my boss, and then I can show you around the building.

Do you want me to wait here?” It was considered for a moment, before being decided against.

No, he’ll meet you eventually, and this way I can make sure it goes well.” Did she think any meeting without her would go badly? Why?

They went into the elevator at the end of the hallway, and Tam pushed a button to take them the rest of the way up the building.

Marinette was surprised. Tam’s boss worked at the top? Wasn’t that where the highest people were?

“Tam?”

“Tim, here are the papers you asked for, and this is my new PA.”

“Since when do you have a PA?” His brow was raised.

She snarked back, “Since you started overworking me.”

He raised his hands in surrender. “Fine, you win.”

“As usual. Anyway, this is Marinette.”

He stuck his hand out for a shake, surprised when his greeting was answered in heavily accented English. “Nice to meet you! I’m Marinette, but I guess you already knew that.”

He gave a CEO laugh. “No problem. I’m glad to see Tam will have some help around here. Between her and Lucius, they barely even need me anymore.”

Tam rolled her eyes at the show. “I’ll be back up later Tim, when you finally give me the edits for the Hiroshaki proposal.

He winced, making her feel triumphant. “Yeah okay, I’ll have done by tonight.”

“At normal person time?”

“Yes, yes, normal people time. I’m really not that bad.”

“Keep telling yourself that.” She walked out, taking Marinette with her, who gave Tim a small wave as they left.

Are you two together? You seem close.

Tam laughed as the elevator closed. “No, we were publically engaged for a while, but that was a mistake on my part.

Oh, okay.” Marinette fell silent as Tam shuffled through her papers.

So why did you move to Gotham? It’s not exactly the safest place to be.

I didn’t really mean to. I was actually headed to Metropolis, but there was a problem with my flight, and I ended up here.” She shrugged. “I got this job after I was here for a few days, so I decided to stay.

That’s..interesting. Most people here wouldn’t be on purpose.

Well, I’m not exactly most people. When I landed, I felt..at home? Like I was meant to be here.

You’re an interesting person, Marinette.

Chapter Text

Marinette got back into her apartment, pulling off her heels as soon as she walked in.

As she rummaged through her kitchen cabinets, she reminisced about her day. Tam was really nice, and seemed like she’d be a good boss. Tim seemed nice enough, if tired. The bags under his eyes were borderline unhealthy.

Maybe if she got to bring him coffee, she could ‘accidentally give him decaf instead?’

She hadn’t really met anyone else, but the few she did seemed relatively happy in their jobs.

Marinette pulled out the ingredients for macarons. For dinner, maybe she could have onion soup? She looked in her fridge, but ended up groaning out loud when she saw how empty it was.

She’d have to go to that grocery store around the corner.

Marinette grabbed her flats and keys out of her bedroom, and left the single bedroom apartment.

Ed’s Grocery Store was nice enough, if a bit rundown. The produce seemed a little old, but not inedible.

The only problem, was that the shelves were too high.

She was just about considering climbing the shelves when a hand reaches above her and grabs the beef stock for her.

She turns around, seeing a pretty blonde girl. “Here, you looked like you needed help.”

“Thank you so much! I was convinced I’d get my growth spurt for years, but I gave up a while ago.”

Blonde Girl snorted. “My ex-boyfriend’s little brother is the same way. Both his parents are pretty tall, so he’s convinced he’s gonna have one huge growth spurt.”

“He’s lucky. My mom’s tiny, and everyone on my dad’s side except him is too.”

“Your accent is nice. Are you from France?”

“Yup! I just moved here from Paris actually.”

“Cool. I’m Gotham through and through. What’re you making?” She nodded to Marinette’s cart, which had a few things, including cheeses, bread flour, and a package of beef.

“My grandpère’s onion soup. My mom used to make it for me all the time.”

“Lucky you. My mom could barely make boxed mac and cheese.”

Marinette cringed. “Good thing I grew up in a bakery, I guess.”

“Wow, I’m kind of jealous now.”

“Well, are you a criminal?”

“Um..no?”

“Are you sure?”

“..yes.. Why are you even asking me that?”

“You can try my soup, if you want to! I’m going to make macarons to go with it.”

Stephanie looked like a box of pasta had just come up to her, done the macarena, and then stole her purse. “Are you high? Or insane?”

Marinette looked wary. “No.”

“Then why would you invite me, a complete stranger into your home, in Gotham?”

“Well, you said you were jealous of my soup..”

“Yeah, but you don’t even know my name!”

“What is it?”

“Stephanie.”

“Nice to meet you Stephanie, I’m Marinette! Now we’re not strangers anymore. It’ll be fine! Me and my family used to do this all the time back in Paris.”

“That’s not normal!”

“Nope, but neither am I.”

“Y’know what? That’s fair. Fine, I’ll come try your soup. But only if you promise to not let any more random strangers into your apartment for dinner!”

“Deal! Come on, I need to get yeast for the bread.”

As they walked to the baking aisle, Marinette heard Stephanie mutter, “this girl’s actually insane.”

They checked out a few minutes later, and walked back to her apartment. Marinette set all the bags on the counter. “You can sit on the stool. I don’t exactly have a couch yet. Honestly, I don’t even know why I have two stools.”

“Alright.”

“I’ll be right back, I just have to put up my hair.”

True to her word, she was back in a few minutes, with one half of her hair in a pigtail, and a scrunchie in her mouth. When it was put up, she looked about ten years younger.

It slipped out without her realizing it. “Oh my gosh, you’re actually adorable.”

“Thank you!”

“How old are you?”

“Nineteen! You?”

“I’m twenty. So you’re nineteen and living alone in Gotham City? You know that’s not safe, right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t really have any friends, and my parents are dead. So, I live alone. It’s really not so bad, I don’t have to worry about cleaning up after someone else.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s the most casual mention of death I’ve seen in years.”

“Well, it happened two years ago, so I’m mostly over it now.”

“You know that’s still fairly recent right? I know a guy who’s parents died when he was eight, and he’s in his forties now, and still isn’t over it.”

“That doesn’t sound healthy.”

“Trust me when I say, it isn’t. Did you stay with family?”

“I only have like two living relatives, and they weren’t really options. My Nonna traveled too much to settle down, and I wanted to finish school, so I just made up a relative. It was kinda fun to live on my own for a while.”

She looked up from the third onion to see Stephanie gaping at her.

“What?”

“I-I can’t even believe this!” She started laughing. It started as a chuckle, and then turned to full-blown cackling.

“Are you okay? Did I say something wrong?”

“No, no-” She snickered again. “It’s just my- my ex, the one with the little brother, he did the same thing when his parents died.”

“Wait really?” Luckily, even though she didn’t approve, Tikki had been super helpful with faking an “Aunt Colette”.

“Yup! He made up an Uncle Jack, and kept it up for a couple of years.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah.”

Marinette started boiling the soup, pouring in the carmelized onions. “Have you ever had macarons?”

“That was random, but no, I haven’t.”

“I think you’ll like them then.”

They chatted about mundane things for about an hour and a half, before the food was ready, along with the macarons.

Stephanie was glad she’d seen Marinette make the food, because if she hadn’t, she might’ve been worried the food had been drugged. It was that good.

“I’m gonna regret this later, but I think that was better than Alfred’s.”

“I’m gonna take that as a compliment!”

“You should, you definitely should. Oh my gosh, that’s so good.”

“You really like it that much?”

“Marinette, I just met you, but I would marry this soup.”

“Is that a thing in America? I don’t think it is, but the country is very odd.”

“Yeah, no, it’s not. How long ago did you move here?”

“A week ago!”

Stephanie blinked. “This is honestly the weirdest first meeting I’ve ever had with someone.”

“Actually, I think it’s mine too.”

“I can’t believe I went into a random stranger’s house, ate food that could have been poisoned, and am now comfortably holding a conversation.”

“It’s kinda weird for me also.”

Stephanie pointed down to the bowl she was eating from. “This is really, really good. Like, amazing good. The bread is really good too.”

“I’m glad you like it so much. You can take it home if you want. I’m not gonna eat it all.”

“Wait really? Cause my mom’ll love this.”

“Yep! Just let me get a little bit for my lunch tomorrow, and then you can take the rest. I think I have some extra containers around here somewhere..” She rifled through the cabinets underneath the counter for a few moments before banging her head on the top of the cabinet with an audible smack. “Ow..”

“Are you okay?”

“Yep, I’m fine. I’ve had way worse. See, this is what I meant when I said clumsy.”

“Yeah, I’m getting that now.” And she did. As Marinette gingerly pulled her head out of the cabinet, there was a visible red patch on her chin. “Ooh, that looks painful.”

“Still not as bad as all the times I’ve fallen down the stone steps at my old Lycee!”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah.” Marinette, now with an ice pack on her chin, spooned the rest of the soup into the container, leaving only enough for one meal. She wrapped a few slices of the bread in plastic, and then handed it to Stephanie. “Here. It probably won’t be as good heated up as the first time, but it should still taste alright.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s really just saving me from having to throw out moldy food when I end up not eating it all.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Oh! Don’t forget the macarons. And your groceries!”

“I can't believe I almost left my stuff.”

“I once ran around Paris in my pajamas with my crush. Groceries aren’t so bad.”

Stephanie snorted. “The first time I met my ex, I hit him over the head with a brick for scaring me.”

Marinette covered her mouth as she giggled, almost dropping the macarons. “That’s hilarious! I’ve never even had a boyfriend.”

Stephanie once again, simply blinked at her. Like a genius. “Really?”

“Yeah, there was this one guy a long time ago that I liked, but he’s not an option anymore.”

“That’s crazy, I mean, you’re adorable!”

Marinette flushed bright red.

“See?”

“I'm glad you think so!" She squeaked.

"Oh my gosh. Black hair, blue eyes, no parents.. well, not that it stopped him with Tim, but wow."

"Um, what?"

Stephanie patted her shoulder. "You'll find out eventually."

"Ok.. should I be worried?"

"No. Well maybe a little. It's not actually dangerous though. More annoying if anything."

"I'll trust you for now."

"A horrible decision really." As Steph walked out of the small apartment, she waved.

Huh. That was fun. Random, and a but weird, but fun.

Maybe Marinette could make her first friend in Gotham.

Chapter Text

After a full week of working at Wayne Enterprises, Marinette could safely say she liked the job. It was a lot of work, but she enjoyed it nonetheless. It wasn’t usually too hard, as Tam mostly sent her on errands, and it paid well.

Honestly, she had no clue how Tam worked so hard, and that was with Marinette taking as much of the workload as she could handle. And apparently, the woman had never had a PA before, so she usually did both her and Marinette’s work? Insanity.

Either way, Marinette was happy to have a Saturday to herself.

Missing Paris, and wanting to draw something, she had Googled nearby parks and had headed to the first one to come up. Once she arrived, she realized it was a dog park, which was even better. She loved drawing animals.

Marinette had walked to the nearest bench, simply absorbing the atmosphere. It was the first somewhat sunny day she’d seen since moving to the city, and she wasn’t about to waste it.

She sketched out a few puppies, a Doberman, and a Pitbull. She had just taken her lunch out of her grey messenger bag when a huge Great Dane came running up to her.

He was absolutely a puppy in the body of a huge dog. She scratched behind his ears with one hand, noting from his collar that his name was Titus. He looked well-taken care of and probably had an anxious owner searching for him.

She had been about to place the lid back on the Tupperware container that held her pasta, when it was knocked out of her hand by Titus’ nose, landing straight onto the front of her new light purple tank top. She wasn’t angry, just a bit disappointed. She had really wanted to eat that pasta.

She spoke dryly, “Thank you, Titus. I didn’t want that food anyway. Or this shirt.” His tail sagged a bit, almost looking as if he understood her. He made a sad whimpering noise from the back of his throat, making her feel bad. Marinette stepped off the bench, kneeling next to Titus. She scratched under his chin, cooing to him. “Let’s go find your owner, okay? Talking to you is good English practice anyway. Let me get my stuff.”

His tail wagged again, and he perked up, making Marinette smile. She shoved her pencils and sketchbook into her bag, along with the now empty lunch container. She grabbed the end of his leash, and they set off through the park. She let Titus sniff around until she heard a faint call.

“Titus! Titus, where are you?”

She waved, seeing two males about a hundred yards away. “I have him!”

Titus bolted for them, making Marinette almost drop her things. Thank God she’d worn her running shoes.

She barely managed to dodge the multiple mud piles Titus ran through, but when she made it to the men, she was breathing heavily.

She huffed out, “Found him on the other side of the park. Knocked my pasta over.” When she looked back up to the men, she realized that one of them was a little boy, and the other was a little older than her.

“Thank you for bringing back Titus! Most Gothamites would’ve just kept him.” The older one gave her a charming grin. She couldn’t help but smile back. The man frowned as he looked down at her shirt. “Did he do that? I’m sorry. He can be a bit eager.”

“It’s really no-”

“It is not Titus’ fault that she was unable to keep a decent grip on her disgusting food.” The man’s smile tightened as the boy insulted her.

Marinette couldn’t help but feel irritated. She had come to this dog park to enjoy her weekend, and eat her lunch. Now her lunch was gone, and she was getting insulted by a little kid because she brought back his dog. “You’re welcome.” Her accent shone through even further than usual in her irritation.

The man covered the boy’s mouth before he could say anymore. “Sorry, he has… behavioral issues. Nice to meet you, Miss. Dick Grayson.”

“You as well, Mr. Grayson. Marinette.”

The man seemed surprised, but she couldn’t tell why. “Well, Marinette, thank you very much for bringing back Dami’s dog. If you want, I can pay any dry-cleaning bills.”

She waved her hand, “It’s fine. It’s only a tank top.”

“If you’re sure.”

She crouched down, once more scratching Titus’ head. She could see the boy getting agitated by it, but was held back by Mr. Grayson. “Bye Titus. Try to stay with your owners!” The dog wagged his tail harder. As she stood up, she turned back to Mr. Grayson. “One thing you could help me with. Do you know the names of any good cafes? Or restaurants? Nothing too fancy.” Now that her lunch was gone, Marinette was starting to get hungry.

The boy rolled his eyes at her. She didn’t know why, but the gesture annoyed her.

Mr. Grayson smiled again. He seemed like a pretty naturally happy person, which was apparently rare in Gotham. She was getting that idea more and more, as each time she smiled at a stranger, she’d either get an odd look or a glare. "Well, Marinette there's a really good coffee shop down the road, or so my brother's told me. Actually, I was going to take Dami there after the park anyway, so maybe you could come with us? It's the least I can do after Titus ruined your shirt."

'Dami' scoffed. "Why must you flirt with everyone you meet?"

Dick glared at him. "I'm not flirting." He turned to Marinette. "I'm not, I promise. I was only offering, and plus, you're way too young for me."

Marinette was so happy that she and Tam had swapped to English from the original French because otherwise, she'd have no clue what the man was saying. She gave an awkward smile, "Okay." After another moment, she added, "This place will have other people, yes?" No matter how nice he was, she wasn't about to be alone with one of the most muscled men she'd ever met, and his equally in shape companion.

"Of course! It wouldn't be a very good shop if no one went there, now would it?"

She giggled. "No, I guess not." The man leaned down and whispered something into Dami’s ear, making the boy nod, though he still scowled as he pulled out his phone.

As they walked, she and Mr. Grayson chatted amiably. When they reached the edge of the dog park, Dami seemed to finish whatever he was doing, and made Mr. Grayson lean down as he whispered to him. Marinette decided not to ask, given that it seemed private.

“So, are you two brothers? You seem close.”

“Yep! He’s the youngest.” “We are not close.”

Ignoring Dami, she responded, “That sounds nice. I always wondered what it’d be like to have siblings.”

She heard Dami grumble under his breath, even as Mr. Grayson launched into how great it was to have siblings.

She giggled as he talked. Something about him was so charming. They reached the small cafe as he was beginning to ramble about how much better hugs were with siblings than with other people.

“What are your siblings like? They sound nice.” Marinette slipped the strap of her purse over the back of the chair.

Mr. Grayson grinned wider than she thought possible. Damian spoke before he could open his mouth, “They’re all insufferable, and you should be appreciative of the fact that you have none.”

“Dami, that’s not true! Honestly Marinette, it's the best. Especially being the big brother. You kind of remind me of my little brother. He says the best things at the most random times. Yesterday, we were meeting up, and Damian told him that he looked tired, right? So Tim says, 'God gave me depression, because if he didn't, I would have single-handedly beat Batman in hand-to-hand combat by the time I was fourteen'. I can't remember the last time I saw my other brother laugh that hard."

Marinette couldn't help the laugh that bubbled out at that. His brother sounded hilarious.

The meal passed fairly quickly, with Dick mostly carrying the conversation, Damian sulking in his chair as he picked at his food, and Marinette chatting amiably, if warily with Dick. She liked him, she did, but he was still a practical stranger in Gotham. Marinette knew she had kind of disregarded that with Stephanie, but something about her had felt a bit different. Plus, Stephanie was about her height, while Mr. Grayson was at least six inches taller.

As Mr. Grayson paid for their meal, she stood up, grabbing her bag. "Thank you very much for the food, Mr. Grayson. It was a lovely meal. I hope you and Damian have a good day at the park. Bye!"

He shook her hand, and she left the restaurant, feeling her faith in humanity restored a tiny bit.