“It is going to be so rock‘n‘roll, Marinette!” Jagged exclaimed, a toothy grin spreading wide across his face. She began to feel her world spin. This was not how Marinette envisioned this video call to go.
‘A quick call to Penny and Jagged to clear all of this up,’ she had thought. ‘There is no way that Bruce Wayne is actually contacting me to design something for his son. It was some new and cruel trick by her classmates. That’s all!’ After all, how would her name ever come up in a conversation between the CEO of Wayne Enterprises and Jagged Stone? That was unbelievable. It didn’t make sense that a small Parisian school girl that designed in her (very little) spare time would ever be a blip on the radar of a billionaire. Of course it being a trick was the most logical conclusion.
But somehow, that wasn’t the truth. Logic was tossed to the side in this current reality. Somehow Jagged Stone had actually managed to pass her information off to someone at his latest event, and they decided to contact her for a commission. And that someone just so happened to be the CEO of a giant American enterprise.
Marinette could do nothing but stare at her phone screen, shocked.
“– When Bruce mentioned his son being picky in fashion and refusing to settle on anything less than perfect? I just knew that you were the one for the job! Especially after that gnarly outfit you made for my last Euro tour. Of course, you were my top pick!”
Disbelief created a whirlwind in her mind, her whole world tossed upside down. It was when Penny took the phone that Marinette felt her anxiety begin to ebb. Penny was always the soft-spoken one out of the pair, and she was always seemingly able to read Marinette like a book.
“You deserve this opportunity, Marinette! Don’t get too worked up over it. Just- think of this as another project for Jagged and I, like normal.”
Normal . The designer did not know if those words really applied to this situation as everything about it was so jarringly not normal. But even so, Penny’s words broke Marinette out of her daze and finally jarred the wheels of comprehension to begin turning. She could not help the smile that began to tug at the corner of her lips as reality sunk in. It’s real.
“Bruce’s son will be staying with us when he arrives, so you will be in a familiar space. Plus both of us will be here. Don’t fret so much, love! You will do amazing. Be excited, not everyone can say that they have both Jagged Stone and Bruce Wayne as their clientele.”
Penny’s sing-song voice waved through the air as she gave Marinette a playful wink. She was right. When put that way, Marinette could not help but grin wider. Finally, she believed. She hoped. She grinned, laughter and nervous energy bubbling forth into the air. By God, this was real! Words practically tumbled from her mouth as her own excitement began to mirror the two adults on the other end of the video call.
“Mon Dieu, I-I—I don’t– know what to say! I – Merci! Jagged, Penny – thank you so much for this, this opportunity! I promise to work hard and prove you recommended the right choice. I… I guess I will be seeing you soon, then!
As she ended the call, all Marinette could think was that Jagged Stone and Penny Rolling had just earned themselves a lifetime supply of macaroons. Things were finally looking up for her.
Marinette had been walking a little lighter that weekend, head held just a little higher than it had been. The excitement was so evident in her since she accepted the big commission, and it was a welcomed relief when Tikki once again heard laughter ring throughout the room. Ever since her wielder had transferred classes, she had kept her head down- focusing only on her studies and heroine duties. She did not have too many friends from her former class after being temporarily expelled due to Lila making good on her promise. That had been the final straw that pushed Marinette to transfer classes, effectively leaving her mostly alone and isolated but finally away from Lila.
Now that she had something new and exciting to focus on, though, she had perked up significantly. It was something separate from the monotony of school, patrol, fight hawkmoth, repeat. It was something exciting. And it was something that was all her own, that no one else knew about asides from her. Her own hard work and achievements had landed her here and no one could take that sense of pride that filled her chest away.
It would be five days until Monsieur Wayne’s son would arrive in Paris. Marinette was shocked at the quick turnaround of his arrival once she had accepted the commission. She guessed flights were not much of an issue to arrange for those fortunate enough to have such wealth. Though, in a way, the impending date of arrival being so soon was likely a blessing. She could not imagine the suspense of waiting weeks or even months to begin. Waiting five days was already setting her on edge, eager to get started. The girl’s fingertips ached to take a concept from mind to fabric. All Marinette could do in the meantime was her own research, create some preliminary designs, and wait. And all Tikki could do was sit back and watch the creative process at work, a content smile upon her face.
Immediately, Marinette took a deep dive into Gotham’s culture to draw inspiration. Everything was dark and sleek. It seemed as if there was nothing bright in the whole city – and not just pertaining to fashion. Life in Gotham read as if it were straight out of a dark comic book, that it would be downright miserable to live there. Stories of villainy, high crimes, and robberies were at the forefront of every article about the city. It seemed Gotham was under attack almost as much as Paris was, only their villains didn’t seem to be magical terrorists but rather normal people with no powers outside their own wit. She didn’t know which was scarier.
To her relief, she soon found that there were also heroes. This tidbit of information piqued Marinette’s interests more than anything. They seemed rougher, considered more as vigilantes than anything. Tikki could see the young girl in these foreign heroes. It was clear by how Marinette found herself pouring over news stories pertaining to ‘the Batman’ and his ‘Robins’ that she had finally found her muse. It was almost as if Tikki saw the young girl be struck with a bolt of lightning, the ideas coming on like a storm. It was bemusing: of course, one hero would find inspiration in another.
Despite her late-night pouring hours of research into Gotham City and it’s heroes into the early morning, Marinette found herself feeling oddly refreshed as she headed into school the next day. The typical weight that lay heavy on her shoulders felt lighter. Perhaps it was the creative burst of this new commission, her mind too caught up in its own artistic process to recognize how utterly tired it was.
She managed to slip into her seat at the back of the new class as the bell rang. Arriving last minute had become even more of a habit since switching classes as the less time she spent at school, the less time she had to worry about dodging Lila. As a result, though, it also meant missed opportunities to keep in touch with her former classmates. Or to create connections with her new ones.
In spite of moving to a new class, the repercussions of Lila’s lies still followed her like a dark cloud, the stigma branding her to the new class before she ever entered. Even with Lila recanting her lies due to everything being a supposed ‘misunderstanding,’ the damage was already done. Marinette’s reputation had taken a hit. Perhaps that was why Lila had lied so viciously and then taken it all back – to show that she could, and the power that her rumors would have over Marinette’s life. To show the misery she could cause without ever lifting a finger, and how everyone would believe her despite years of friendship and trust being built. It could all be taken away by a simple lie.
Luckily not everyone from her old class – or her new – were intimidated by Lila, knowing her tall tales to be simply that. The only time Marinette socialized with them was at lunch. Her new support group consisted of a hodge-podge of people, ones she never thought would actively voice their opinions and stand by her side. Since switching classes, she had grown closer to those she least expected, and farther away from those she thought she would never lose.
Chloe, of all people, was the first to unofficially declare her allegiance with Marinette claiming that even though Marinette was ‘utterly ridiculous’ that she would never lie nor cheat. Alix, Kim, and Max soon saw through Lila’s charades once Chloe pressured Max to have Markov do a thorough search on all of Lila’s faulty claims. Despite the group presenting evidence, Lila spun a web of more lies to cover herself that pulled everyone else in closer. Including Alya.
The loss of Alya by her side was the most painful. She still claimed their friendship was strong, but it had slowly been replaced with Lila who promised more and more outlandish stories about Ladybug and Alya slowly but surely fell for each and every one of them.
After everything, Alya and Marinette’s friendship wasn’t the same. Namely, that it was hardly a friendship at all. They were acquaintances at best, someone that she used to know at worst. It hit Marinette hard the first time she realized how long it had been since she had spoken with her former best friend. They hadn’t had a conversation in months, and every attempt at reconnection on Marinette’s behalf was met with an excuse of being busy with Lila or plainly being ignored. The silence received spoke louder than any words she had ever heard.
The bell rang for lunch, pulling Marinette from her reverie. She mechanically began to gather her things and made her way slowly to the lunchroom. Entering the cafeteria, Marinette could see the brunettes sitting happily together, chatting away with laughter filling the space between them. She could not help but hunch her shoulders inward as she quickly walked past them to the table in the farthest corner. There, her unlikely new friends waited for her. Chloe, Alix, Kim, Max. Kagami and Luka were a few feet ahead of her, beginning to take their seats.
On Mondays, the whole group usually sat together. On other days, they typically dispersed to other groups and Marinette would often go home for lunch, typically accompanied by Chloe, Luka, Kagami, or a combination of the three. It wasn’t often anymore that she was within 100 yards of the school alone, as the three had unintentionally become her pseudo-bodyguards, often accompanying her to and from school. Despite there never being a formal agreement, they all knew that the more Marinette was alone, the more likely she was to be targeted by Lila. But it was nice because at least she felt like she had a semblance of comradery in her hardest time. It made her smile. She knew that she made the right choices to grant them their miraculouses in a more permanent manner now that she was the guardian. They defended her and stayed by her side, despite not knowing her true identity.
As Marinette reached the table, she instantly felt the safety and compassion of her group wash over her. It was nice to be included, to have friends again. To interact with others. She couldn’t help the soft smile that spread across her face as she zoned out of the present conversation. Her mind drifted to thoughts of suits and designs, a deep red leather being used to create the outer portion of a suit with subdued yellow lining on the inside, brought together by the stitch of a sewing machine ---
“Hello?! Marinette, our resident space cadet? Could you return to Earth for a moment?!” Chloe waved her hand in front of her, snapping her attention back to reality. When Marinette glanced about, everyone’s eyes were on her, Luka beginning to chuckle and Chloe giving frustrated huff.
“I was trying to tell you something super important that my hairstylist said about my split ends and you weren’t even paying me any attention! Where is your head at?! These things are important you know!” The blonde exclaimed, tossing her hair before sitting herself back with arms crossed. Brows plucked to perfection scowled at her and Marinette gave a sheepish grin. She opened her mouth to apologize, but was promptly cut off.
“I know exactly where her head is. That look is the look of someone who is clearly distracted by something more important than your split ends, Chlo” Alix said, giving a Cheshire grin that would rival Chat Noir’s himself. The pinkette leaned in, over the table and into Marinette’s personal space with a smile that seemed to say she knew it all.
“Puh-lease, there is absolutely nothing more important than that!” Chloe chimed.
“Who is he, Mari~?” Alix teased, ignoring Chloe completely as she had her target. “I know not just anything would have you this distracted. It’s gotta be a boy. A boyfriend? A secret boyfriend?! Oh my, my, Mari you scoundrel~”
“I – what? No! That’s --- there’s no boy! Well, I guess technically… No! There is no boy involved!” Marinette stammered, struggling to find her words when faced with the jarring accusation. Her fumbles made everyone at the table laugh, causing her face to flash hot all at once. It was all in good jest, she knew, but it still flustered her to no end.
“Wor- work is just going exceedingly well at the moment. I have a new commissioner. That’s all! You all know how my brain gets when I’m in design mode.” she pleaded, a sheepish smile spread across her face. “And before you ask, no I won’t tell you what it is, I don’t have all my official details yet. But I’ll tell you when I can.”
With that, Marinette spoke no more to the matter, not wanting to divulge more information until the project was finished. She secretly feared that if word got out about her big project, she would be called a liar again. With how big of a name this client was, she did not want to go around tossing big names such as Wayne for no good reason. Who would even believe that she was contacted by someone like that for a commission? Marinette herself didn’t believe it at first, and she was sure that Lila would find some way to take her artistic reputation down too.
Marinette’s small explanation, though, did not quell the beast that was her new friend group’s curiosity. Alix, Chloe, and Kim all began pestering her at once, swarming her with questions and demanding answers. It took Luka speaking up for them to calm down.
“Maybe we should drop the subject. Whatever this totally awesome new commission is, it’s clearly making Marinette happy – we should respect that” He said, an unspoken message being communicated with his pointed gaze: ‘let her have this to herself, leave her alone.’
“All right then, keep your secrets!” Kim growled an exclamation, clearly exasperated to not have his curiosity satiated. His hands were thrown into the air and he vacated the table in a huff. Not upset, not mad, but definitely being overdramatic on purpose. Now it was Marinette’s turn to giggle, as the rest of the table began to fall into a burst of comfortable laughter. No doubt as to why Master Fu had given him the miraculous of the monkey, his personality matched perfectly.
Sitting around, laughing, and partaking in each other’s antics set Marinette at ease. It provided a sense of normalcy that she felt comfortable in. Looking around at the faces of her new friends, she understood why they had been – or would be – given a miraculous at some point or another. They came together, even as civilians, to help their friend and formed their own unique bonds along the way. She would often feel her heart swell with pride in moments like these, where she thought about how they were all connected – even if they didn’t know it. How they were all truly and undeniably miraculous in their own ways.