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Meet-Cute

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Gotham's architecture was vastly different from her Parisian home but still beautiful in its gothic way. Paris was filled with old stone buildings, lush parks, and cultural touchstones such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum. The city of love is a classic beauty, while Gotham is an unconventional diamond in the rough. 

Stepping out of the bus, Marinette was itching to sketch out new designs inspired by the city's somber mood, and the decrepit statues with their eerie allure. It was a shame that she had to lock her new sketchbook in her suitcase. She had been too afraid to risk it being destroyed at the hands of Lila and her groupies. 

Marinette sighed longingly, she pulled her suitcase behind her and made her way along with her class into the hotel. She had once been an outgoing, bubbly girl, able to befriend just about anyone who crossed her path, but that was before her second year of high school. Now a year later, she was a social pariah. 

She forced a smile onto her face, willing away those sad thoughts. If luck is on her side, then she won't have to be alone for much longer. 

Her class was chosen to be apart of a foreign exchange program that, for a few, also doubled as an internship at Wayne enterprises. And since Paris was dealing with their own set villains, Gotham Academy had chosen her school to participate. The thought process was that students who were already used to villains would acclimate better to Gotham's unique climate. 

This was a saving grace for Marinette, and she desperately needed a change in scenery. With Hawkmoth sending akumas out every other day, Chat Noir's increasingly worrying behavior, and Lila's constant campaign against her, she just needed to get away from it all.

Although there were a few cons to joining the class trip, namely her ladybug duties and the fact her omega side would be on edge from the lack of familiar surroundings. Being the guardian of the miracle box gave her the ability to convince Kaalki to come with her and let her use his powers to teleport back to Paris if need be. So while she would always be fighting to different time zones, she was confident she could handle akumas even in a different country. Marinette also had the added comfort of knowing there were still active heroes in Paris, and she had appointed Luka and Kagami as permanent holders. 

The thing that was the more distressing part of the cons was she was an omega going into an unfamiliar place. That as an omega, she was at risk of becoming distressed if she was in unfamiliar surroundings or overwhelmed by new scents. But Marinette felt like it wouldn't be too bad, being a superhero for the better part of three years gave her a spine and a will of steel.

She snapped out of her thoughts when she heard giggling from behind her. Tossing a look over her shoulder, she saw that Lila was whispering to Alya and sneaking glances at her, Marinette knew the look on Lila face it was once she had come to dread.

"She did what!" Alya exclaimed, holding a hand up to her mouth in shock. Alya's golden eyes snapped to Marinette's hunched frame, a furious look coming over her face. 

"Oh, Alya, it's ok, really!" Lila sniffled pitifully and wiped at her eyes even though there were no signs of tears. "You know how she gets... Some people are just bitter over their presentations and want to pretend to be something else."

Marinette just rolled her eyes and made her way towards the hotel's front desk. Lila's newest lie was that Marinette was faking being an omega and was actually a beta in disguise. Lila had "accidentally" let slip she was an omega not long ago and subsequently told Alya the scent Marinette put out wasn't a real omega's scent and that she was probably using perfumes to fake her presentation.

It's not like most of the class had grown up with her. Strange how they never commented on her lavender and honey scent until Lila claimed she wasn't a real omega. 

Marinette wanted to be done with her ex-friends, they had tossed her aside without a thought, and yet whenever she saw them, she couldn't help but feel a tug at her heartstrings. She really was pathetic.

"Excuse me, miss..." Marinette stood in front of the concierge desk and mustered up the most convincing smile she could at the woman behind the counter.

"Yes?" The woman was in no mood to be friendly, raising an eyebrow at Marinette, daring her to keep bothering her.

"Sorry, but we have a reservation under the name Bustier-"

"Nine rooms and sixteen key cards," the curt woman held out a hand holding the cards, waiting for her to take them.

"Y-yes..." Cautiously Marinette took the cards, blue eyes darting to the items then back to the woman "thank you, miss."

The woman didn't say anything back and just looked back down at the computer in front of her. The message was clear to Marinette, and she really didn't want to be hated by anyone else while here in Gotham. However, that might be a tad difficult considering the attitude of the city's inhabitants. 

"Ah, Marinette, did you get the access cards like I asked?" Madame Bustier appeared behind the black-haired girl making her jump in surprise. 

"Yes, Mme Bustier. Here.." She gave the cards to her teacher and watched as a small smile came over the class's only supervisor.

"Excellent! Let me find yours, and then I'll let you go upstairs and unpack." Mme Bustier flicked through the handful of plastic cards before pulling one out "here... since we have an odd number of students and you're the class president, it makes much more sense for you to be the one with a single room." She didn't wait for Marinette's reply and handed out the card and walked towards where the rest of the students had grouped, talking about Lila's newest boyfriend.

Marinette signed and pulled her suitcase behind her as she made her way to the hotel's elevators. She flipped over her key card and looked at the room number. It seems like she's going to be on the fifteenth floor, she hopes the view is nice.

 

Damian tore the towel off the leather chair next to him, flicking his wrist, he watched the blood on his hands splatter onto the floor. His emerald green eyes looked down in contempt at the shirtless man tied to the interrogation chair in the center of the room.

The only true heir to the Wayne fortune smirked down at the quivering man. Grayson and Drake both opted out of this meeting, telling Demon Spawn they were too busy to take part. They might be considered heirs, but since they weren't too fond of this side of father's business, Damian thought they were too weak to carry the title. At least Todd could handle the more gruesome aspects of the company, but Damian still wouldn't want to spend any lengthy interrogations with him.

From the moment the youngest member of the Wayne clan came into the fold, he firmly believed that his so-called brothers weren't worth his time. For some reason, father kept them around and made Damian call them family to his dismay. 

"P-please I," the bound man lurched and coughed up some blood, his breathing was labored, and blood dripped down his chin. He struggled against the bonds, but they did not give, "I-I didn't kno-"

Damian rolled his cold eyes as the man pitifully stammered, he strolled up the bloodied and bruised fool. As the man tried to deny fault for his transgression against the Wayne family, Damian reared his fist back and slammed it against the man's face. A sickening crunch echoed in the dimly lit room, followed by a pain-filled howl.

"Don't even bother lying to me," the young man stepped in front of the other battered man leaning down to whisper in his ear. "So tell me, Mr. Draper, what were you planning on doing with our weapons shipment once you had taken them?" Damian leaned away again and brought a hand up to his contemplating face rubbing at the stubbled along his jaw "Hm... or are you working for the Joker, maybe?

Draper was shaking, and sweat began to collect on his brow, his brown eyes darted around the room, looking for an out. His damp face was horrified, and his eyes were turning wild. "No, no, no! I'm not with them, please I just needed the money. I- my sister needed something to protect herself something the police couldn't trackback to her... I... I thought that I could make some cash by selling the rest."

Those toxic green eyes bored into Draper, causing him to squirm under the intense gaze. The creaking of an opening door made Draper jump while Damian just sighed.

"What do you want, Todd?" the young man didn't turn and greet his elder brother and walked over to the table on the far side of the room.

"Hey Demon Spawn, Brucie wants to see you in the cave" Jason Todd, the second oldest son of the philanthropist and covert mob boss, Bruce Wayne.

Damian clenched his fists and bit out, "last I checked Father wanted me to take care of things here."

"Something's come up, and he wants you asap," Todd shrugged and ambled on the tarp-covered study ignoring the sniffled man tied to the blood-stained chair.

"Fine. But then, what should we do with him?" Damian nodded towards Draper in an apathetic notion.

"I'll take care of him" Todd made his way up to Draper and inspected the battered man frowning a bit when he saw that the man's nose was already broken. 

Damian grunted at his brother and tossed him the blood-drenched towel in his hand before stalking out to the room. A gunshot rang out from behind the door he had just closed, he scoffed and rolled his eyes at Todd's impulsiveness. 

He made his way down to the basement, running a finger along the walls until a snag caught it. Pushing on the notch revealed an access panel, Damian entered the code without thinking he had done it so often that the pattern was ingrained into his mind. Behind him, the wall opened, and a dark corridor was exposed, shoving his hands into his pockets he stalked into the blackness.

It wasn't long until the dark hall expanded into a massive room that looks like it was carved out of stone. His father was sitting in front of a wall of monitors that showed everything from back ally security footage to home surveillance systems. 

"Damian," his father's icy blue eyes tore away from the computers when he spun around in his chair, making Damian meet them with his own.

"Father, you interrupted my interrogation with the thief" Unlike most Damian didn't flinch under Bruce's gaze instead, he met it with his own cold glare. 

Like father like son.

A smile broke out on the older man's face, and he laughs jovially "yes, I did" he leaned his head on to his hand and turned back to the computer interface. "I have some exciting news about our company's tamer side..." Damian said nothing and waited for his father to finish whatever dull drabble he had to say. Bruce sighed at his youngest son in a very parental manner that Damian bristled at. "Since you've been out of school for the past week, you might not have heard, but Gotham Academy accepted a submission for their foreign exchange program. You remember the disaster that was their last exchange program, but a class from Paris has decided to visit our city for the next few months."

Damian frowned. He didn't like where he thought this conversation might be headed.

Bruce ignored the cross look on his son's face. "After that event, the city saw a significant drop in tourism. Many businesses suffered even Wayne Enterprises took a bit of a blow. It is imperative that this time everything goes smoothly for those foreigners so the city's tourism can recover and our company can have better relations with France."

"So you want me to babysit a bunch of brats? Is that what you're going to say?" Damian spat and growled at his father, with teeth bared, and shaking with rage.

"In a way..." Bruce gave his son a reassuring smile, but it did little to quell his youngest son, who was called The Demon for a reason. "I want you to watch out for them, to make sure that none of the unsavory people of Gotham end up making their trip a little too thrilling."

"I don't see why you need me to do this why not hire a few bodyguards and be done with it?" Damian was growing tired of this conversation, it seemed too beneath him to watch over a couple of children. 

"Simple, you're their same age, so it won't be suspicious for you to be hanging around them..." Bruce paused and pulled a file off the desk, and handed it over to his son. "The four on top are the ones Tim will be watching over while at the office. Agreste, Rossi, Kanté, and Dupain-Cheng are the ones who won the internship with our company, so they will be working in the office a few days a week."

Damian flipped open the file and glared down at the pictures of the students already hating them.

"I want you to take special care none of them gain the attention of any of the rouges... they will be attending one of the galas during their stay, and I don't want any of them to go missing before that."

Damian wasn't pleased by this new development, "If they're at the company building, I don't see why Drake can't take over babysitting duty full time then" he folded his arms across his chest a low growl tore out from his throat.

His alpha didn't like it when people gave him orders. He was a prime for god's sake. 

"Son," Damian paused, father never called him that. "I promise that after they foreigners leave, I'll let you graduate early, but only if you keep them out of trouble."

Damian froze. A devilish smile broke out across his face "I accept your terms, father."

Finally, he will be done with the utter waste of time that was public education. He was leagues ahead of the material in the school anyway, he had never understood why his father insisted on him attending.

He didn't look at the complete file in his hand before leaving the cave, only glancing over the first page that was about a boy named Adrien. He didn't need to; they were just a means to an end. 
 
 

Chapter Text

The morning light swept into the small hotel room, causing the snoozing girl to groan in discomfort. A little red blur zoomed around the room and floated down to where a box containing a few macarons lay. A grabbing a cookie out of the pink box Tikki, the Goddess of creation, eyed her chosen as the girl slept the day away. Glancing at the clock, the tiny god decided that Marinette had had enough time to relax. Floating over to Marinette Tikki nudged her pink-tinted cheeks with ever-increasing force, the longer it took to wake the girl.

The tiny god sighed at her chosen. Marinette always had trouble getting up, and now that she to deal with a different time zone Tikki worried that she would spend the entire trip asleep. Hovering over the lightly snoring girl, Tikki tired to lift Marinette's face off the desk only to lose her grip and drop her very unconscious human. Tikki winced when she heard the thunk the girl's head made when it landed on the desk, but she still slept soundly.

"Marinette! It's time to get up!" the god only received a moan in response. Tikki huffed and brought her face right to Marinette's ear. There was only one way to wake a sleeping Marinette up, but it came with consequences. She took in a deep breath and then screeched, "YOU'RE GOING TO BE LATE!"

She got an immediate reaction. The young teenage girl's bluebell eyes snapped open, and her arms flailed about as she careened onto the floor. 

Marinette was confused one moment she was running from Chat Blanc, his claws brushing against her back close enough she could feel welts forming on her skin, and then, she was on the floor. Blinking the sleep out of her eyes, she brought a hand up to her forehead. She winced when she touched a particularly tender spot. She can vaguely remember hearing Tikki, but the images of her nightmare muddled the words. But she can hazard a guess of how her Kwami got her up. Groaning, she wined, "Ow... Tikki, why'd you do that?"

"You left me no choice, you know just as well as I do how deeply you can sleep," Tikki giggled at her chosen's cross face. "Come on it's your first time in America right let's go out and explore, see what Gotham has to offer" Marinette forced a smile onto her face. Tikki frowned when she was, but Marinette gently brought a finger to Tikki's head and gave her a little pat.

"You're right... I don't want to spend all my time indoors while on the trip." Marinette hummed thoughtfully, "Since it's already past time for lunch, why don't we get a light snack and head to a museum or park. I want to get inspired and design some new things for Jagged. I know he would love the city's style." She grinned at Tikki and hopped off the ground.

Glancing at the digital clock by her bed, she realized how late it really was, and past lunchtime might have been an understatement. Sighing in disappointment, she came to terms that she needed to get a move on if she wanted to explore the city before nightfall.

Opening up her suitcase, she pulled out an outfit she had worn the night before. It was wrinkled, but since she had only worn it for a few hours the day before, she thought she could wear it again without too much fuss. A creme colored sweater with black lace detailing around the cuffs and an overlay on the dipped neckline paired with a muted brown plaid skirt. A quick and comfortable outfit that still looked stylish. 

Marinette decided against a shower and instead put her hair up in a bun to hide her messy locks. She pulled on her clothes, applied light makeup, and zipped up a pair of black knee-high boots. She grabbed her purse and opened the pouch to let Tikki inside along with her keycard before she left her room. 

Luckily it seemed that her classmates had already left the hotel and were out sightseeing, meaning she didn't have to sit through whatever lies Lila had spun. Marinette stopped by the reception desk and looked through the pamphlets that detailed the many sights that Gotham had to offer. She eventually settled on two the Gotham Museum of Antiquities and Robinson Park; it was a lesser-known park compared to Gotham City Park, but it had a deep history along with the city's heroes or as they were called here vigilantes. Although it might be better to see the park with a group, it was in a poorer area of the city, and they had been warned to stay in the 'good side' of Gotham. The museum was probably the better of the two, but Marinette lamented over missing out on seeing the city's greenery, she knew that Poison Ivy made sure that all the parks were lush and beautiful. She huffed, then typed the address of the museum into her phone and set out. 

The city streets were grimy, and every person she past kept their heads down and walked with purpose. No one had the time to take in the intricate architecture or the bespoke buildings. No one besides Marinette, her whole aura practically screamed tourist, from the way she held herself to the look in her eye. 

But she was too busy stopping at every billboard and street sign to sketch out a new idea that she might make something of later. In the corner of Marinette's eye, she saw a cozy looking cafe on her way to the museum. Suddenly she felt a wet drop land on her face, looking up she noticed that the sky was turning a charcoal grey. 

It looks like a storm was about to hit.

The rain came hard and fast, Marinette didn't think to bring an umbrella with her, so she was left to brave the elements. Running towards the cafe, she pushed open the glass door, hearing the chime of a bell as she dashed inside.

The place was just as cozy inside as it looked outside. A roaring fire lit off the side of the room where a pair of leather couches were situated in front of the fireplace. Stacks of books and magazines were placed all over the space. People sat in plush looking chairs sipping on their beverages. The best part was that Marinette couldn't smell any pheromones, meaning the cafe had installed scent neutralizers, making it a much more comfortable environment for the omega. She smiled gleefully and brushed a damp stray hair out of her face and made her way over to the counter.

"What can I get for you?" the barista was the first friendly face Marinette had seen since landing in Gotham. A beta girl, maybe in her early twenties, stood behind the counter wearing a black apron with a dusting of flour on it.

"I'm not sure. You have some items I've never seen before." Marinette scanned the menu items, not that familiar with the different english terms for coffee. "What is a Red Hood?"

"All of our drinks are named after the various um... personalities that inhabit the city. The Red Hood is just a red-eye with an extra shot of espresso, an excellent choice for someone in need of caffeine." The barista grinned at the now blushing Marinette, although she was sure the worker was just joking she was all too used to the jabs her classmates threw at her. But the cafe worker was right, she definitely needed some caffeine in her system.

"I guess I'll have a Red Hood then, and is there any chance that you sell umbrellas?" The sheepish smile she got in return was not a good sign.

"I'm sorry, but we, unfortunately, don't" the girl gestured toward a box set up next to the front door, "but we do have a lost and found you might be able to find one in there, now can I have a name for your order?"

"Marinette," the barista nodded and turned away empty coffee cup in hand. She sighed at her bad luck. She really thought that having the literal goddess of luck would counteract the bad mojo that followed her but no such success.

Deftly walking towards the cardboard box labeled "Lost & Found," she kneeled and rifted through the miscellaneous things. A few coats, a couple of pairs of headphones, a book or two, but no umbrellas, groaning Marinette sighed in defeat. Before she got up she noticed something sticking out of one of the box's flaps. How odd she thought to herself as she plucked a playing card from where it was sticking out. She flipped the card over and saw it was one of the face cards specifically the Joker. 

"Marinette!" she jolted up and made her way back to the counter to pick up her drink, she pulled out the box of macaroons from her purse she looked around for an empty seat. Frowning when she couldn't see any free tables, and the couches were filled too, looks she was going to have to ask someone to share their table with her.

She notices a man sitting alone in at one of the tables next to the windows, she walks over tentatively. He smelled of coffee and ink and very alpha. He looked tired even more than her, with dark black hair and a set of redlined blue eyes he was an undoubtedly handsome man. 

"Excuse me, monsieur." A pair of bright cerulean eyes snapped to her a looked of surprise on the man's face. "Sorry to bother you, but would it be ok if I sat there?" She pointed at the empty seat across from the man. He looked at where she was pointing then back at her. 

She didn't notice, but the cafe was silent. A few patrons had looks of terror across their faces, while others sent sorrow-filled glances at Marinette.

"I'll share some of my macaroons with you," she sent a sweet smile, and the man relented. He nodded at her then went back to typing on his laptop. It took a moment, but Marinette noticed how the once lively cafe had gone. Still, no one was talking or even moving. She let out a nervous laugh that made the man look at her once again "h-here, this one's chocolate" she handed a brown colored macaroon to the man while taking a bit of a strawberry flavored one. the man inspected the treat but made no move to take a bit. "Umm, It also has espresso powder in it, so it's a nice pick me up if you're a fan of coffee..." She trailed off the awkward atmosphere causing a fierce blush to creep up her cheeks.

"You're not from Gotham, are you?" Marinette blinked at his remark then smiled.

"No, did my accent give it way?" He smirked at her and snorted a little.

"Most people in Gotham don't sit with people they don't know, let alone give out sweets" He took a tentative bite out of the cookie and let out a  tiny "hm" eyebrow raised. "These are good, where'd you get them?"

"Oh, I made them, my parents run a popular bakery back in Paris, so I've had a lot of practice cooking." 

"Paris? That's interesting what are you doing in Gotham then. It's not the most welcoming place in the world, you know." He brushed with black hair back and leaned back into his chair, setting his gaze on Marinette.

"I'm visiting with my class. We're doing an exchange program with Gotham Academy as well as an internship with Wanye enterprises." She sipped her cup of coffee. It was surprisingly good.

"Really? That's convenient. It seems that we might be seeing more of each other then." He smiled brightly at her, she had seen before that was a handsome man, but now that he was smiling, he put models like Adrien to shame.

"Convenient? How so?" Marinette brought her drink down from her lips and looked inquisitively at her tablemate.

"I work at Wanye enterprises, and I was informed recently of my newest responsibility to look after the new interns." He let out a deep chuckle "I was planning on meeting them on Monday, but it looks like you like to do things early."

Marinette laughed along with the man, "Pleased to meet you, monsieur..."

"Timothy Drake and likewise, miss..."

"Marinette Dupain-Cheng."

"Welcome to Gotham Marinette. I hope the city treats you well during your stay." For the briefest of moments, Tim's smile turns menacing, but it's gone by the time Marinette looks.

 

Chapter Text

Marinette tried to stifle her giggle, but after biting her lip, she let out a very unladylike snort. The redness creeping up her neck was a combination of mortification and her natural blush after laughing. Sitting across from her, Tim was laughing along with her enjoying his coffee and their shared macarons with gusto. 

"I wish I had siblings, hearing your stories about your brothers makes me kind of jealous" for the first time in a long time, Marinette had a real smile on her face. Not the forced ones she gives her parents and teachers but genuine grin sparked from laughter. 

"No, they're awful, they would only try and limit your coffee consumption, and for addicts like us, that would be a tragedy" Tim's blue eyes showed mirth in them as reached over and lightly flicked Marinette's nose. 

Marinette swatted at his hand and giggled, "I suppose you're right, I'd be nothing without my coffee" they shared a knowing look and clinked their paper cups together. 

"So, Miss Dupain-Cheng, would you mind doing me a favor?" Tim raised an eyebrow at his tablemate.

"Depends on what it is I suppose..." she trailed off while the playful atmosphere was still there she always grew wary when people asked things of her.

"I was reviewing the company files on our four interns when you came by, and I was hoping that you'd be willing to tell me a little about the three others." He must have noticed the slight change in her demeanor because he schooled his face into a disarming smile, and with his unfairly handsome features, Marinette was no match.

"Oh, yeah, I guess I could tell you a little about them," her smile tighten, and she turned to look out the window. It was still raining. She wondered how long the storm would last.

Tim frown noticing her fingers turning white as she gripped her coffee cup "Who would you like to start with there's Rossi, Agreste, Kanté, and Dupain-Cheng, though I believe we can skip her." He tossed Marinette another charming smile making her blush deepen.

"Um, I guess we can start with Max." She brought a finger to her lip "he's one of the smartest people I know, basically, a genius" she laughed softly "he likes to do competitive gaming, and he's really good too. But, he's a bit of a poor loser though... Oh!" she lit up when she remembered something "a little while back, he created Markov, a robot with artificial intelligence." She let out another genuine laugh, "you know, sometimes I forget that Markov isn't actually human. He just seems so real," She shrugged.

Tim looked up from his computer, as Marinette had been talking he added to his notes on the interns "That's pretty impressive for someone so young, I'm sure he'll be happy to be placed in the I.T. department. Now how about Miss Rossi?" 

Marinette was quiet. She bit her lip, fighting against the feral part of her mind that wanted to scream out everything Lila had done to her. But, she knew how important this internship was, and ruining Lila's image before she could create a real one wasn't something she was keen on doing. It didn't matter what her classmates thought of her, she was a hero, and heroes don't succumb to petty revenge... no matter how much they want to.

"She..." Marinette's hands twitched "she's a good public speaker, really knows how to get a crowd on her side. Um, she very personable. She also can multitask and has a great memory..." She blew out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. Nothing she had said was a lie, and none of it was incriminating either. 

"Hm, maybe Human Resources would be a good fit for her" Tim didn't look up from his laptop as he spoke only moving his fingers as they flew across the keyboard. 

Marinette went pale at the thought, "I ugh think she would be much better in something like Marketing or Sales." Avoiding eye contact with Tim, she took another small sip of her coffee.

"Alright... and Agreste?" Tim sent her an odd look that she couldn't quite decipher.

She was expecting to have to talk about Adrien, but she still gulped down her drink in the vain attempt to take up more time. "H-he um, is ugh" her hands were shaking, and she felt light-headed.

"Marinette, are you alright?" Tim's worried voice snapped her out of spiraling.

"Y-yes, I'm fine, really," she sent her a small smile though she could tell it didn't do much to convince him.

"Are you sure? You look pale..." Tim's blue eyes scanned her face looking for any sign of what caused this sudden change.

Marinette brought a shaky hand up to her forehead, wiping the forming beads of sweat away. "Ah, yes, I'm ok. I'm not sure what came over me" she made a show of looking down at her phone then exclaimed "I'm so sorry, but I really should be going, the museum that I'm headed to is going to close in about two hours" looking almost like the hounds of hell were chasing her she grabbed her things off the table and stood up.

Tim lowered his coffee cup from his lips, looking at Marinette with that same odd expression, he reached into his bag and pulled out a sleek black umbrella. "Here I know the rain in Gotham can be hellish, and if you're going very far, you're going to want an umbrella."

"Oh, no I can't take it, it's yours, and you're still going to need it" she waved her hands in front of her face and tried to back away, but that damn charming smile on his face made it almost impossible.

"I insist, I'm here for a quick coffee before I'm going back to the office, really its no trouble at all my walk only takes a few minutes." He stood up and took her hand into his, pushing the umbrella into her now open palm. "Before you leave, which museum are you headed too? I might be able to give an easier route."

Marinette took the umbrella with a soft smile. Tim was so nice, she really enjoyed spending time with him, and she hoped that she would see him again soon. She turned back and waved goodbye. It was still a torrential downpour outside, making the already grey city even bleaker in the evening light. She pushed open the glass door, the little chime ringing in her ears as she braved the rain. The umbrella didn't help much with the added wind sending the icy droplets into her face and skin, but she would take what she could get.

The directions Tim had given her proved to be faster than the route shown on the pamphlet from her hotel, as he saw the outline of the grand museum in less than ten minutes.

Luckily for her, it didn't look too crowded right now, only a few people milling in and out of the brightly lit entrance. As she hopped up the marble steps, she took a moment to admire the stone-carved gargoyles guarding the edge of the stairs. She had a spark of inspiration and rushed to get inside before she lost her idea. 

The entrance was gorgeous, keeping with the city's gothic vibe the museum was full of straight lines and demure colors, a few suits of armour were set out in a display in the center of the large room. Marinette quickly found a place to sit and began to sketch out her newest idea. 

Marinette's designs were known for their intricate details and bright colors, so it was a bit of a challenge to design something that looked like it belonged in this city. After three attempts, she finally was happy with how this one came out. The  dress  was classy but had a distinct gothic feeling to it without going overboard. It was a sleeveless black dress that had some lace detailing in reference to the gargoyles she had seen outside.

She took pride in what she did and always wants to be expanding her repertoire. But her grin quickly drooped when she heard a voice coming from the hall leading into the medieval exhibit.

"Dami-boo told me how much he was looking forward to meeting you guys, but something came up at work, and he couldn't make it," a pitful sniffling voice echoed in the airy space.

Peeking around suits of armour, Marinette spotted Lila being comforted by Alya, Nino, Juleka, and Rose while Adrien stood a few feet away with an annoyed expression on his face.

"Crap..." Marinette mumbled to herself, edging away in the opposite direction, she darts down the hall leading to the fine art wing of the museum. Ladybug's luck must be with her today because she doesn't hear any of her classmates follow her, meaning they mustn't have seen her, thank god.

Slipping into an arched doorway, Marinette's breath is taken away. The room was absolutely bewitching, ivory walls decorated with the most elegant works of art she had ever seen. The ceiling was curved, creating a dome shape made entirely out of glass. She wished she had come earlier in the day. It must have been breathtaking to see the room lit up by the sun. 

Her boots made a soft clicking sound as she walked into the gorgeous room. Several pedestals were scattered here and there and displayed in glass cases were ancient pottery, statues of greek gods and goddesses, and 3d paintings.

Marinette slowly made her rounds about the area, inspecting each piece, waiting to feel that spark she always felt when she saw something that inspired her. On her first pass, she felt the electricity when she looked at a pair of golden Chinese fans. They looked like they were dipped into molten gold, and the intricate art of a peacock spoke of long hours painting the finest of details. 

Looking around Marinette noticed she was one of three people inside the room, it seems like this was a less popular wing of the museum. With only the barest hint of shame, she sat down on the floor right in front of the display.

"Thirty minutes until the Museum of Antiquities close's, thank you for your patronage," a robotic voice cut through Marinette fevered drawing. She was sketching out a gown inspired by the fans she had seen. It would be made out of golden silk to keep with her Chinese traditions, with the same peacock detailing along with some other elements here and there. Good thing she was just about done, she quickly jotted down the date on her drawing.

If she hurried, she might be able to grab something to eat at a dinner before dark. Meandering slowly out of the room, her eyes caught a glimmer of something out of the corner of her eye. She doesn't know how she missed it before, but there was a massive chandelier dangling in the center of the room.

She felt a magnetic pull towards the frankly obscene show of wealth. Her steps lead her underneath the diamond-encrusted chandelier, there was a metal plaque situated in the shadow of the chandelier. 

It reads,  This exhibit thanks the Wayne family for their many contributions to the arts. On loan from Wanye enterprises. 

Admiring the shining gems, Marinette couldn't stop the feeling of wanting to draw from bubbling inside of her. Her fingers itched to sketch a new outfit all because of this glittering monstrosity.

She had enough time to get the basics outlined she took out her phone and snapped a quick picture of the chandelier. She would need a reference for when she got back to her hotel and started sketching out the finer details. She soon became engrossed in her art, not noticing that the rest of the attendees had left or that the lights were dimming.

"Excuse me, miss" Marinette jumped and let out a little shriek. Turning towards where the voice had come from, a tall, broad woman in a security guard uniform stood before her. She was a beta with a soothing chamomile scent that was subtle enough not to give herself away "the museum is now closed."

Marinette's mouth made a soft oh shape, and her blush returns with a vengeance. "I'm so sorry," she bows her head in embarrassment "I just got caught up with my art, and  I forgot about the time."

"By your accent, I can tell you're not from here, so I'll let you off with a warning, but most people will think you're up to something if you're found in places you're not supposed to be." The security guard looked down her nose at Marinette a no none sense expression on her face. Marinette nodded at her and began walking out of the gallery. The guard followed her out and led her back to the museum's entrance, where she heard a commotion.

"Once my boyfriend hears about this he'll be so mad, don't you know that Damian's father,  Mr. Bruce Wanye , set it up so we would have an hour after closing to look around the museum!" Lila and co were arguing with a few staff members by the doors marked "exit," if Marinette had to guess she's lying to get special privileges.

"We haven't received any such information from Mr. Wayne, so, unfortunately, we cannot facilitate your request. You need to leave now" A stern-looking man had his arms crossed over his chest, making the muscles hidden underneath flex. Lila didn't seem to get that her tricks weren't working on this man and kept pushing.

"Do you understand english, sir, because I'm not sure you hear me right. Bruce Wayne, my soon to be father in law told me I'd be able to tour the museum after hours with my friends no problem." Lila was shaking with rage, and her entourage looked annoyed too, "You don't want to upset this museum's greatest support by denying his favorite daughter's wish!"

"Be that as it may, Mr. Wayne may call me himself if he has a problem, but you lot have outstayed your welcome." Marinette quivered with second-hand fear when she saw the harsh glare directed at Lila, the security guard leading her out of the building, huffed at the group of teens a few feet away.

"Fine, but I'm so sorry for what you'll have to go through once my Dami-boo heard about this" flipping her hair, she sauntered out the door with her herd of sheep in tow.

"Thank you for showing me out, and sorry again," Marinette gave a sheepish smile at the woman who, in return, gave a small grin of her own.

"No, problem. Now get back to wherever you're staying before too long, Gotham isn't a nice place after dark" she gave Marinette a kind smile before pushing her out the exit doors and back into the rain.

Pulling out Tim's umbrella Marinette rushed past her classmates, standing underneath a ledge to keep out of the rain. Before she could make her getaway, Lila's voice cut through the sound of the thunder.

"Marinette? I didn't realize you were here, we could've toured the museum together if I had known... Were you avoiding me?" the hurt in her voice was obviously fake, but her ex-friends eat it up like it was the food of gods. "I don't understand Marinette why you don't like me. I'm sure we could be great friends if you'd let me."

"Ugh, girl why are you like this? Alya had a hand on her hip as she glared at her ex-best friend "I can't believe i was ever friends with you."

Maybe if she hadn't been holding back tears, she would've noticed Lila's poised foot jutting out, or perhaps she should've expected something like it. But she was clumsy, forgetful, naive, stupid, stupid Marinette.

Chapter Text

Marinette tried to catch herself when she stumbled. But with the rain making the marble steps slick, and her less then steller coordination, it was an impossible feat. She crashed onto the cold hard stone. Her shoulder slammed into the unflinching pavement, and as her head collided with the lip of the step, she felt her forehead earn a nasty cut.

The sound her body made as it was pitched down the stairs would haunt her dreams. Every thump gave her another painful bruise, and every tumble gave her another bloody gash. She landed heavily onto the course sidewalk, panting from her injuries. 

"Oh, Marinette, are you ok? That was a nasty fall," she froze at the sound of his voice then snapped her head to where Adrien was leisurely walking into the rain and down the steps. 

She tried to speak only to have the taste of copper fill her mouth. She was beginning to feel light-headed, but she managed to pull herself into a sitting position with some effort. She brought her hand up to her face and felt warm blood drip from her cheeks and travel down her throat. When her finger brushed against her skin, she flinched violently, her stomach lurching from the pain induced nausea.

"Princess, you really should be more careful..." even though they weren't real, she could feel the invisible touch of his claws scraping against her wounds. She felt his presence looming over her small form his breath fanning over her ear, " You know how Lila is M'lady... Here I thought you were the smarter one of the two of us. You really should know better by now" his finger twirled a stray lock of her midnight hair, a content look on his face.

"I-I but... I didn't even say anything" her head was swimming. Every thought seemed to move at a snail's pace, and the figures moving around her looked so blurry.

"Marinette, here let me see where you got hurt" Lila appeared beside her making her jump only to wince at the movement. Why hadn't she smelt Lila coming? "Whenever I'm here, I always patch up Batman and his team- opps" the surprised look on her face was disarmingly sincere, but Marinette knew better.

"You know The Batman? No way my best friend knows the Gotham vigilantes, this needs to go on my blog" Alya hastily took out her phone and was texting furiously.

"I really shouldn't have said anything. It's supposed to be a secret. But I know I can trust you, Alya. You're the best with secrets" Lila batted her lashes at her beaming friend who had stopped texting to look at Lila with wonder.

"Girl, you're the sweetest!" Alya rushed over and hugged Lila. 

Adrien hovered over Marinette, never moving away to give her space, or closer to offer help. His toxic green eyes held a deep intensity that made her uneasy. 

Marinette looked down at her arms and saw that they were littered with black and blue bruises, and her hands were raw from cuts that decorated her pale skin. She felt faint, and her vision was shaky, something dripped from her nose onto her lips. Instinctively she moved to wipe it away only to bite back a scream when her hand brushed against her nose. When she lowered her hand, it was coated in deep crimson.

"That's not good..." her bluebell eyes were wide as she assessed the damage to herself. Her eyes scanned from her feet up to her chest. Every centimeter of her body was either turning a sickly purple or oozing scarlet liquid. 

"Guys, she looks kinda bad. Maybe we should call an ambulance?" Marinette couldn't sense it when Nino approached, and that disturbed her. She had always had a fantastic sense of smell, but now all she could smell was copper.

A hand grasped her arm that made her hold in a pained moan, looking over Marinette saw that Rose was kneeling by her side. Lila must have noticed that her peers weren't paying attention to her anymore. And, that wouldn't do.

"Oh, I hope you're doing alright Mari, you know that I sometimes get ticks, I just can't help my condition." Lila clasped her hands together and cooed at Marinette, as she, with great effort, staggered to her feet, almost tumbling back onto the ground a few times before righting herself.

"She's fine. She probably just acted like it's worse, so we feel sorry for her," Alya scoffed and turned her attention back to her phone.

"I just feel so awful, that fall looks so bad I hope you're not going to blame me for it, you know I'd never do something like that." Lila pulled out the waterworks and began to sniffle, and it was only a matter of time before it turned into full-blown sobs.

Juleka and Rose quickly rushed over to comfort the crying girl forgetting about Marinette altogether, while Nino looked torn. But once he heard Lila begin wailing, he gave Marinette a slight frown and walked over to the other girl.

She wasn't surprised, a little hurt, but not surprised. Even with blatant injuries, she still wasn't a priority. Lila had made sure that no one would ever come to her aid. 

"Hold on guys we can't forget about Marinette, I j-just feel so bad I didn't mean to, it's just with this rain my twitch is acting up and causing me some pain" Lila wiped away the fake tears running down her face.

"Why didn't you tell us that before, girl?" Alya took Lila's hand into hers and started walking down the street "we need to get you back to the hotel asap." She looked up into the torrential rain "This weather can't be good for your tendonitis, either."

Marinette watched as her classmates walked away into the crowded street. They were suddenly very concerned about Lila's various conditions that they didn't spare Marinette a glance before they disappeared. She felt her heart break a little bit more.

Jolting out of her thoughts, she felt a hand land on her shoulder and clenched harshly. She held back a wince, Adrien was squeezing a spot where she knew another bruise was forming.

"I'll see you later, Purr-incess" his voice was so low she could hardly hear him as he purred into her ear. His hand gently brushed against the back of hers in a gesture that would've made her swoon in her younger years, but now it only made her chest heavy. She watched listlessly as he, too, faded into the congested walkways, leaving her behind.

Marinette stood in silence, not feeling anything except emotional turmoil, she knew her classmates were caring individuals, so how could they forget about her so quickly? But soon enough, the adrenaline wore off, and the phantom pain of misery seemed like a welcome nuisance compared to the excruciating burning sensation surrounding her face.

She felt something nudge her thigh and looked down to where Tikki was staring back at her. Her kwami's wide blue eyes were filled with worry, the little god whispered as loudly as she could without being overheard. "Marinette, I really think you should visit the hospital."

"Can't I just use magic to heal when we get back to the hotel?" Marinette had lots of practice with healing herself. Sure, all her more severe injuries were healed by the cure, but she's taken care of a few sprained ankles and cuts outside the ladybug suit.

"No, I can see that it's too serious for you to handle it right now, it would take too much out of you." With a resigned nod, Marinette quickly pulled out her phone and searched for the nearest medical facility.

She kept her head down as she trekked the twenty-minute walk to Gotham hospital. She caught a few people gawking at her as she made her way, but they didn't do anything else, just looked. She also saw a few children and women sporting awful looking marks, so it must be a common occurrence to see bloodied bodies walking among the rest inside the city.  

She was beginning to worry, throughout her walk; she couldn't pick up a single scent. Absolutely nothing, she couldn't make out a single person's designation no matter how close they were, she couldn't even smell herself.

When she entered the hospital's waiting room, she saw a barrage of people flying about in degrees of distress. But still, she couldn't smell anything. She couldn't pick out who was an alpha or omega. She couldn't even pick up on the smell of disinfectants that she knew would waft in the air of a hospital.

She took a seat and looked at the TV mounted in the upper corner of the sitting room that was playing the local news where the broadcaster was covering the latest Joker attack near the south side of the city. Seven reported dead and over twenty injured.

" That must be why it's so hectic,"  Marinette thought, as she watched nurses running in and out with patients on stretchers with I.V.s dripping saline into the unconscious persons' bloodstream. She tried her best to dodge the staff as she walked to the check-in desk, but more than once, she had to bite back tears as someone unintentionally rammed into her. Wordlessly, she filled out the forms given to her by the kind nurse staffing the desk and waited for someone to call her name while sitting in one of the sterile plastic chairs.

"Marinette Dupain-Cheng" A nurse looking around the waiting room called her name. She followed the nurse as they led her down a hall, stopping once they reached a door marked as exam room #7. "The doctor will see you shortly," the nurse nodded at her, then and closed the door behind them once they left the room.

Marinette shuffled up onto the examination table and waited, nervously twisting her hands together. She had never been to America before, and she knew that the health care system was vastly different from France's. At least she has her commission funds to pay if it's really expensive. She didn't think to get traveler's insurance, a mistake that she will never make again.

She waited for over an hour before the doctor popped his head into the room and smiled. The man stepped into the room, flipping through a file in his hands as he hummed in thought, "Hello, Ms. Dupain-Cheng."The doctor sat down in a chair and rolled it over so he was situated in front of her, "now, your file tells me you had a tumble and suffered a few injuries, can you explain what happened as well as show me where it hurts the most."

Marinette shifted and slowly recounted what had occurred only an hour earlier, leaving out a few small details that wouldn't matter. Like how she didn't trip accidentally, but she didn't need to bother a doctor with stupid high school drama.

She lifted her shirt and showed him the deep purple marks around her ribs and brought her face close to his so he could exam her nose and cheeks. He then took her face into his hands, noticing her flinch when his fingers made contact with her skin. His eyes precisely scanned her jaw and nose, he lightly pressed at her nose, making her let out a whimper, he made an apologetic noise but continued his examination.

"Well, luckily, I don't think your nose is broken. It is more likely to be badly bruised and swollen. The bad news is that it's often reported with theses sort of injuries that some people experience a loss of a sense of smell. While it's not permanent, it can be a jarring side effect," the doctor scooted his chair back and took off his gloves, pulling her file off the desk and clicking a pen. "I'm going to prescribe an anti-inflammatory and pain medication. Hopefully, this will clear up in three to five weeks. If your symptoms worsen, please come back and see me again. One last question before I let you go. Since your accident, have you noticed your sense of smell dulled or gone altogether?"

Marinette paused and then nodded, "y-yes, I think so... but you said its not permanent, right?"

"No, you will likely slowly regain your olfactory senses over time while you heal, but for the meantime, be careful and inform those around you about your condition." The doctor wrote her a prescription and handed it over to her telling her to pick up her medication at the teller before leaving.

She sighed, at least she wouldn't be stuck like this forever, she glanced at her reflection in the mirror and winced. She was pretty sure makeup wouldn't be able to cover up the nasty bruising fully, she laments about having to go to a new school looking like she was just in a brawl.

After getting the medicine and paying her bill, she made her way back to the hotel. The rain had lessened but not stopped, so by the time she made it back. She looked like a drowned rat, thankfully none of her classmates were in the lobby, making her trek back to her room peaceful.

Once she closed the door behind her, she slipped on to the ground holding back tears as the day caught up to her. Tikki slipped out of her purse and hugged her arm tightly.

"It'll be ok Marinette, tomorrow will be better I just know it!" giving her kwami a sad smile she picked herself up and laid on her bed blowing out a puff of air. Her stomach grumbled loudly, making her sigh, remembering her plan of grabbing dinner on the way home. In all the chaos she had forgotten and now she was paying to price.

Tikki floated over and dropped a pamphlet onto her stomach. Leaning up, she grasped the paper and smiled. It was a list of restaurants that delivered to the hotel. 

"Thanks, Tikki." she grinned at her closest friend and kissed the little god on her head "What do you think looks good?"

Chapter Text

Marinette's blue eyes were lined red, and underneath them, she was sporting deep purple bags. She knew that her class was heading to Gotham Acadamy around seven, so she had decided the night before to get up an hour earlier so that she could have time to try and cover up the bruising on her face and arms.

Over the years fighting crime as Ladybug, she's gotten pretty good at hiding discolored skin and blemishes. She told herself that yesterday was no different compared to her days in Paris. She would keep her head down. But even Tikki knew that these marks weren't going to be the last she received in America's most crime-riddled city.

Stepping out of the shower, Marinette walked to the hotel closet, where she was keeping her new school uniform. Being an aspiring fashion designer, Marinette lamented over the school forced dress code. How could she express herself wearing only blacks and dark blues? She sighed as she opened the closet and pulled out her clothes . At least it wasn't totally hideous.

The uniform consisted of a white undershirt and navy blue vest with the school's yellow crest stitched into it, along with a navy pleated skirt, black stockings, and a plum-colored tie. Not all together horrible, but Marinette still wasn't happy about it. On the bright side, she doesn't have to think about what she will wear in the mornings.

Tikki was still asleep by the time Marinette had finished getting ready. She glanced at the hotel room's window. Even though it was already close to seven, it was still pretty dark out only the barest hint of sunlight creeping through the cloudly sky. Breathing out a deep sigh, she walked over to where her best friend was currently sleeping. Gently she picked up the Kwami and laid the little god in her purse. 

With the new dress code, she couldn't bring her classic pink clutch and was forced to carry a bulky black satchel. Luckily she had thought ahead and quickly designed a bag with a cozy hidden pocket for Tikki.

Slipping out of her room, she made her way to the main floor where the dining area was located. Stepping into the open space, she saw that most of her classmates were already up and enjoying breakfast together at one of the large tables. They were all dressed in their uniforms, and Marinette had to admit that at least the school had the foresight to pick clothes that complemented all body types.

Grabbing a coffee and muffin, Marinette found a secluded table to munch on her breakfast in peace. In the distance, she could hear Lila blabbering away about her amazing boyfriend.

"Dami-boo called me last night to apologize for not meeting up with us yesterday" Lila's voice was filled with false sorrow, "but his father urgently needed him at Wayne enterprises. I hope you all understand." Marinette's classmates clamored to assure the sniffling girl that it was ok.

"Don't feel bad about it, Lila. It's not your fault, and I'm sure we'll get to meet him sometime on our trip!" Rose's shy voice sought to comfort the fox as Juleka tenderly rubbed her arm.

"Yeah, girl. He is a Wayne after all, the guy must have a pretty busy schedule. The fact he is trying to make time for you just shows how much he cares about you," Alya cooed over Lila. Marinette rolled her eyes but stayed quiet. She knew that Lila probably already saw her and was waiting for the slightest misstep to pounce.

"Good morning class," Mme Bustier waved at the teens and walked over to where most of her students were sitting. "I hope you all are ready for your first day at Gotham Academy. I've heard nothing but good things about the school" the homeroom teacher smiled as she talked about how lucky they all were to receive this opportunity. 

Marinette barely listened to her teacher drone on and on about how amazing the private school was. Everything Mme Bustier knew about the school came directly from Marinette as she was the one to send out the application and convince the school board to let them go on this trip.

Alya squealed, clutching Lila's arm in a tight grip. "Oh my god girl, I can't believe how lucky we are to have someone like you in our class. Who else could get us a trip to Gotham of all places!"

"Well, since Damian and I have been dating for a while, I was able to pull a few strings to get our class application picked." Lila grinned down at her class as they all offered their gratitude.

"Oh don't be so modest girl. I'm sure it wasn't just that, I mean we all know you're the one who filled out the application in the first place, so it must have been the contest's best entry!" Alya was practically drooling over Lila and her fake bashful expression. "Honestly, how do you have the time to do all the amazing things you do? It must be so tiring to be this awesome."

Mme Bustier came back to the table with some coffee in hand, "alright, everyone, finish your food and get ready to go. We're going to leave soon" her smile was bright, but Marinette could tell it wasn't real. "The French club will be giving us a school-wide tour, so we need to make it there early. Isn't that wonderful?" The middle-aged woman clapped her hands together and ushered her students out of the dining area, not even sparing a glance at Marinette. 

Huffing Marinette got up and followed her class out into the damp streets of Gotham City, they ignored her, but that was fine. It's not like she would've liked their company anyways.

Unfortunately, Mme Bustier didn't have the foresight to look up directions, so they got lost when they tried to read the road signs. Marinette tried to tell them that they should just ask someone for directions, but the class ignored her advice and clamored around, Lila, as she told them she knew a shortcut to get to the Academy. 

They finally made it to the metro after an hour of bumbling around, looking like lost little children. It was crowded and dirty, people kept to themselves and avoided contact with any other train riders. Despite her class's lack of tact as they took up as many rows of seats as they could, they managed to make it in and out in one piece, but by the piercing glares they received along the trip from the other train riders, it was nothing short of a miracle.

Even though the walk from the metro only took a few minutes, they were still running very late. Her class chatted away without a care in the world as they made their way to the school. Marinette had gotten used to the isolation and now understood that no matter how many people were around her, she could still feel lonely.

The sight of the gated building made Marinette take a sharp breath, in complete awe of the beautiful architecture her fingers twitched, wanting to reach for the sketchbook that wasn't there. The school kept with Gotham's theme, but this place seemed like it took inspiration from Greek temples with its many pillars and sand-colored stone.

After they got past the gates, they entered a courtyard, where lush green grass and thick foilage welcomed the Parisiens. While it didn't fit into the city's somber mood, the yard somehow looked liked it belonged.   

The exchange students turned a corner and approached the front entrance. They spotted a group of teenagers waiting on the stairs leading up to the main doors. The teenagers looked dower and impatient, they were dressed in the school's uniform and speaking rapid English in an annoyed tone. Mme Bustier waved at the teacher standing with the other students and shepherd her class towards them.

"Bonjour Collège Françoise Dupont students, and welcome to Gotham academy!" The professor greeted the french students in a clipped tone, a tight smile on their face. "My name is Simone Price, but please call me Ms. Price. I am the French club's instructor, and these students are the club members," she motioned at the group of students standing at her side.

One of the male students stepped forward after a slight prompt from his teacher, "Bonjour, erh toutes les personn. Ugh, je m'appelle Steffen Mauricio et nous sommes le club français!" Marinette's class snickered when they heard him struggle to speak, making fun of his accent. Steffen was sickly pale and sweating fiercely, his brown eyes darted to and fro, not settling on anything, but doing anything to avoid direct contact with Marinette's class.

"Steffen here is the president of the french club and has been diligently practicing these past weeks, preparing for your arrival" Ms. Price's voice was filled with pride as she spoke about her student. 

Lila snorted softly and snickered to Alya in french "Oh, I could tell," the two girls laughed at the boy. Marinette frowned but said nothing. It didn't look like Steffen heard them, so there was no reason to add kindling to the vicious inferno that is Lila.

"Since you arrived late, we do not have time for the school tour. But, while you're attending the Academy, we'll have you each shadow a french club student, and they can show you around. Just encase your not too comfortable with English yet, we also have asked all of the club members to speak French unless you inform them otherwise. " Ms. Price carried not even glancing at the exchange students as she spoke, "unfortunately, we only have fourteen club members, so one of you will be shadowing Mr. Jonathan Kent." An absolute monster of a boy waved to the class, grinning broadly. Marinette had never seen someone so tall and bulky. He put her papa and Ivan to shame. "Jonathan was kind enough to volunteer when he heard that we were short a student. While he may not be fluent, he does have a grasp on the language. So he has been paired him with Lila Rossi, who we were told has the best grasp on the English language" Jonathan smiled bashfully and nodded at the teacher before sending the french class a blinding smile.

"Excuse me, Ms. Price," Lila's sickly sweet voice interrupted, "but I'd really appreciate it if there was any way I could be paired with someone else, maybe with Steffen?" Ms. Price looked unsure and sent a questioning look to Mme. Bustier.

"Well, we already have paired you all up-"

"Oh, it's just since I grew up speaking Italien, and I only became fluent in French a few years ago. I just thought it'd be better for me to be paired with someone who had the best grasp on the language..." Lila sent a pitiful look at Mme. Bustier, "It's just I'm really not confident in my speaking skills, I know that I can understand well enough, it's just I get so tongue-tied sometimes. I'd be much more comfortable with someone who could speak French with me."

Ms. Price's eyes narrowed, "you sound pretty competent with the language."

Lila froze, not prepared to hear something like that, but Mme Bustier quickly came to her rescue. "Of course you can switch partners Lila, we understand that it must be very scary for you to be in a place where both french and Italian aren't common." Mme Bustier quickly assured the crying girl and sent a forced smile to the other teacher, Ms. Price, however, looked unimpressed.

"Ms. Rossi, Steffen has already been paired with your class president if we changed this now we would have to inform the staff of the switch" Ms. Price's face was tense, and Marinette could tell that she someone with a short fuse.

"I'm sure Marinette will have no problem changing partners, she such a kind girl, she would do anything to ease the worries of her classmates. Wouldn't you, Marinette?" Lila cooed while clutching Adrien's arm.

"Of course, Lila, that's fine." Marinette did her best to keep her voice level and understanding.

"Oh, and since Marinette is our class president. It's only fair for her to be the one paired with Jonathan. I mean, she does have the second-best understanding of the language after all" Lila batted her lashes as she walked over the Steffen and looped her arm with his.

"Lila's right, Marinette. Why don't you go over and introduce yourself to Jonathan while I talk with Ms. Price about the change" Mme Bustier walked towards the other scowling teacher, not giving Marinette a chance to argue.

"Looks like we're a paired up, now, huh?" Marinette jumped when a masculine voice broke out from behind her, she turned to see Jonathan smiling down at her. "Salut, Marinette, as you've heard, I'm Jonathan Kent, but you can just call me Jon" he stuck out a hand and waited for her to take it, she did, his grip was firm but not tight.

"Alright, everyone first period will be starting soon, so take your buddy to class and bonne journée!" Ms. Price stood next to Mme Bustier, but she looked like she wanted to be anywhere else as she sent the students off.

"We can just talk in English I have to work on my language skill anyways," Marinette reassured Jon before he could try his hand at french. "So," Marinette followed Jon into the school and took in the bespoke architecture that the school sported "what's your first class?" 

"Thanks, I know a little french, but I'm not fluent like my friend Damian is..." he laughed as he scratched the back of his head. "Ugh, my first period is nothing interesting, just A.P. physics, but because I share it with my best friend, it makes it a little more bearable."

Marinette laughed woefully, "just my luck, to have my worst subject at this ungodly hour."

Jon chuckled as he leads her through the maze of hallways until he stopped in front of the classroom. "Mr. Arsenio is a pretty chill teacher just be quiet and get good grades, and he won't care what you do during class" Marinette nodded at Jon and followed him in, he steered her to the back and put his stuff down at one of the tables. 

Soon after they sat down at the teacher came in and began the lesson. Jon was right Mr. Arsenio was an excellent teacher, he was patient and didn't blink an eye whenever Marinette didn't understand and asked Jon what he meant. The class was small, only comprised of a few students, but Marinette preferred that.

Once her classmates realized she was one of the exchange students, they scrambled to ask her all about living in France. Mr. Arsenio saved her from the storm of questions and reminded the class that class was, in fact, still active and to keep any question not pertaining to math for later.

Mid-lecture, the door flew open, and a stoic looking boy stood there with a cross expression. Marinette had only been in Gotham for a day, and it was quickly becoming apparent that is was a popular place for beautiful people. The boy in the doorway was frankly unfairly handsome, dark hair, bright eyes, tan skin, and a jaw that looked like it was cut out of marble.

"Ah, Damian, how nice of you to join us" Mr. Arsenio's nasally voice hummed, and he motioned at Damian "please take your seat and get the notes for today's class."

Marinette watched as Damian scowled and stalked into the room, ignoring the stares from his classmates. The once bright class visually shrunk under his sharp glare, only Jon remained his carefree self while everyone else became like mice. His footsteps were heavy and made a distinct thump every time they hit the floor. He was too busy looking at something on his phone to notice the people around him.

Marinette hunched in on herself when he made a b-line to the desk she was sharing with Jon. Unceremoniously, he dropped his book bag on top of her notebook and papers and snapped his finger at her.

"You're in my seat, move," the cold voice sent shivers down Marinette's spine, and she fought the urge to turn tail and hide. She looked over to Jon for help, but he was acting like nothing was the matter. When she didn't move, Damian's sea-green eyes snapped from his phone and landed on her. He suddenly froze, all the while she was having an internal meltdown.

"Damian glad you made it this is Marinette" Damian had his emerald eyes locked on her face, his expression slack-jawed. "She's apart of the exchange program. We got paired up, so she will be my new seatmate for the next few weeks. Sorry, I didn't inform you sooner, but I thought you weren't coming today, so I let her sit in your seat without your permission" Jon's impish smile was wide his pearly white teeth showing "hope you don't mind." 

Marinette didn't appreciate Jon's playful tone when this event was borderline life-threatening. Damian's eyes were locked on her, and all she wanted to do was disappear, even though she couldn't smell other people's emotions anymore she was a hundred percent sure Damian was going to murder her, and Jon wasn't going to do a thing to stop him.

A perfect distraction came when Marinette heard a low rumbling sound. It seemed like it was coming from behind Damian, it almost sounded like a purr or maybe a croon. But before she could try and figure where the sound was coming from and distance herself from his awkward encounter, Mr. Arsenio pitched voice cut through the tension.

"Mr. Wayne, I know that you probably already know this material, but the rest of my students came here for an education." Mr. Arsenio curtly addressed Damian glaring holes into his back "you can either take your seat and stop distracting the others, or have a free period outside of my class."

Damian glanced at the stout teacher pausing to gaze back at Marinette. He studied her face for a moment with a sour expression before pivoting and stalking out of the class, slamming the door behind him.

Marinette's pale face turned to Jon and found his eyes already on her. "So, I know that probably wasn't the greatest first impression but that  asshole is my best friend." Jon smile had faded a little as he examined her face, his blue eyes lit up in understanding for a moment before he switched back to his usual carefree self "he grows on you, I promise."

Chapter Text

Damian sat in a plush leather seat, glaring out the car's window. A permanent scowl marring his face, and his dark green eyes flickered between annoyance and fury. Father put him in charge of babysitting a bunch of french teens and yet has the gall to ask him to attend a meeting with the False Face Society the night before his new so-called wards begin school.  

And much to Damian's chagrin, Father had asked Alfred to get him to school as quickly as possible. And there was nothing in this world that could stop Alfred, once he was given a task.

His wrathful expression deepened when Alfred had to swerve to avoid traffic, causing his head to bump against the frosty glass. They flew through Gotham city, weaving in and out of traffic. Pedestrians knew the risk they took when they walked along the streets. It was normal to see cars disregarding traffic laws. And street races against police were an everyday occurrence.

Damian leaned his head against the foggy window and breathed out through his nose. He was tired. He's been swamped with duties for the past week, leaving no time for anything else, not even sleep. While he may detest the idea, he concedes that he's beginning to mirror Drake in all his insomniatic glory. He stifles a yawn and closes his eyes, briefly letting the built-up stress melt off his bones. 

Alfred's wrinkled grey-blue eyes glanced behind him as he looked at the young master soundly sleeping in the backseat. "Master Damian," his soft voice slowly roused the dozing lad. A pair of sleep laden eyes fluttered open at the sound of his name, "we have arrived."

Damian groaned lowly, the leather was nice and warm and oh so soft, all he wanted was to drift off once again. But, he pulled himself upright, swung the car door open, and dragged his body out. His head pounded, already on the cusp of getting a migraine. He slammed the door shut, then locked eyes with Alfred and nodded at him conveying his thanks in his own silent way.

Despite Alfred's best efforts, Damian was, in fact, late for school. First period was almost over by the time he walked through the school's sturdy wooden doors. His green eyes darkened as he stormed down the many halls towards his AP Physics class. 

No one dared get in his way. To be in his way was to incur his wrath, and every person alive in Gotham knew about his fiery temper. Getting on the Demon's bad side was nothing short of a death sentence. He hadn't acquired the monikers' Demon Spawn and Ice prince by being an all-around friendly guy, like Jon.

He fought to stifle another yawn as he strode up to his classroom door. He already knew that today would be a pain, puffing out a breath he thought to himself that is was better to get it over with. The foreigners were only here for a few weeks and then gone forever, and Father promised that once it was all said and done, he would be able to graduate early.

Throwing the classroom door open with more force than necessary, he glared at the student body. Damian's usual mask of distaste covered his face as he listened to Mr. Arsenio's greeting. A buzz broke him out of his stewing, as he leisurely walked into the room he reached inside of his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.

He quirked his brow, Grayson messaged him.

Grayson: Hey baby Bird, the Joke is out, expect trouble tonight.

A low growl leaked out of his throat. Of course, Joker escaped Arkham. When the world wants him to have a shit day, it doles out the punishments at every turn. He already knows that tonight is going to be another all-nighter.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Jon chatting with someone. It is not out of the ordinary; quite the contrary actually, Jon has always been a very personable guy who thrives on attention, someone who needs to be known and know everyone else. What makes Damian pause is that Jon is talking with someone sitting in his seat. No one sits in Damian Al-Ghul Wayne's chair and lives.

What insufferable fool dares to take what belongs to him? 

Stalking up to his desk, he drops his book bag down and snaps his fingers, expecting this unknown person to flee apologizing profusely for their transgressions, maybe even scream in terror. But all he got was silence.

"You're in my seat, move" his voice chilled the room in its icy tone, he was too busy texting Grayson to bother looking up, but still this halfwit said and did nothing. Perhaps they were frozen in fear? Damian smirked, that would surely boost his already engorged ego.

Jon's Kansas accented voice piped up, "Damian! Glad you made it, this is Marinette." Looking up at this  Marinette,  He suddenly went stock still.

His eyes were locked on a set of blue ones. A blue, so mesmerizing that he couldn't find the words in Arabic, French, English, or any other language for that matter, to accurately describe their luster. He sucks in a breath wanting to speak but unable to.

Lavender and Honey... Who knew that these two scents would combine to make to most tantalizing, mouthwatering smell. Distantly Damian could hear that Jon was still talking, but instead of words, all he could hear was buzzing. His mind was simultaneously moving at lightning speeds and also at a snail's pace. 

His hands were slick with sweat, and his skin felt clammy. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. What the hell is wrong with him? Is he sick? No, no... even though his mother may detest the idea of mates, she had the foresight to teach him the signs of finding his true mate. 

This puny girl was his perfect mate? Scanning the girl's face, he acknowledges that she is reasonably attractive, with her small button nose, large eyes, and clear skin, she could even be called beautiful. But she was tiny and so delicate... she must be cursed with bad luck to end up saddled with the Heir of the Demon of all people.

His inner alpha was practically preening, wanting nothing more than to peacock around the room just so that she could admire him from every possible angle. But why wasn't she saying anything? Was she mute? No, she and Jon were just talking, so that theory was moot.

Her bluebell eyes looked frantic, and her lovely scent was souring with fear. She was turning sickly pale, and Damian was on the verge of panic. He was the Demon's Heir, the blood son of Bruce Wayne, he wasn't used to things not going his way, and yet instead of elation, his mate was only showing fear.

Swallowing his pride like it was the most repulsive morsel of dirt, he did something that his family didn't think him capable of doing. He crooned. A low disgustingly sweet noise he had only ever heard Dick produce when near his mate, Kori. 

Damian could feel the eyes of all his classmates on him. They were practically witnessing a miracle, the Ice Prince purring. A few students dared to look Damian in the eye while he was purring only to be met with a menacing glare and curled lip. He maintained his signature icy visage with his brows tightly furrowed, and a set of cold, detached eyes, despite performing the sickenly sweet action.

But, her pleasing scent that he had only caught a whiff of right before he had approached was still twinged with the putrid smell of fright. He wanted to snarl at her and demand to know what the hell was making her so afraid. How dare she act like this. Sure he reveled in it when other people cowered before him, but she is supposed to be the exception.

Damian's head was beginning to swim, and his vision was growing blurry. Silently he cursed and turned heel, his footsteps were heavy, and he looked a moment away from rampaging. Mr. Arsenio was wise enough to understand that Damian was on the verge of losing control and let him leave class without a word.

His traitorous eyes glanced back at Marinette before he could exit. She was staring right back at him with her deep azure eyes. His heart fluttered, beating so strongly it felt as if it was going to leap out of his chest. Clenching his jaw, he yanked the door open and slammed it shut as soon as he was out of the threshold.

He was drenched in sweat, and his hands were shaking, aggressively, he tugged at his hair as his frustrations grew. Of course, his rut had been triggered.

He needed to get away, to be as far from anyone else as possible. He couldn't call Alfred to get him, that would just lead to questions he didn't want to answer. And he wouldn't call any of his siblings they were all too useless to be relied on, plus he would sooner take a toxic bullet from Scarecrow then tell them what happened.

But, Damian knew where Drake left his car when he was at work, and it wouldn't be challenging at all to hotwire it. Drake would be fine, stranded but fine. 

Chapter Text

@meta_jetta
Poor Steffen is really going through it will his new buddy, RIP my dude. 🙏

 

@steffen_mauricio_82
Ugh, so the French class arrived, and its already a disaster. this girl won't shut up about being Damian fucking Wayne's true mate. Like has she even met the guy? Our resident Ice prince apparently is just the sweetest KILL ME NOW!

 

@Matthewlikesbiscotti
Warning to all Gotham Academy students, One of the French kids is going to be murdered by our Ice Prince once they cross paths. This girl keeps blabbering about how she's dating Damian Wayne and saying he basically kisses the ground she walks on. The Bitch's end is nigh.

 

@Vitoria_hudson_gotham
One of the exchange students is in my A.P Physics class and she👏 is👏 adorable👏 Like she probably only comes up to my shoulder, so so smol.

 

@Vitoria_hudson_gotham
Update: The tiny Frenchie came in with Jon, and he sat her in Damian Fucking Wayne's seat! What the hell Jon, how could you throw her to the wolves like that? Not cool Jon not cool.

 

@mydeathwasnotbysuicide
Download video
Am I seeing things or was Gotham's ice Prince really purring to the exchange student in our class?

 

@PetitionforNightwingHimbo
Wayne showing up late for class normal, him staring down the new student for sitting in his seat pretty normal. But you know what's not normal? The Ice Prince purring at this pint-sized french girl. Am I in a parallel universe?

 

@bakinghotnicola
Holy hell, but is Damian Prince of Darkness Wayne going into a rut like during class?? Like deadass he's been staring at this girl who by the way smells terrified for the past five minutes... hold up no way is he purring at her? I hear purring coming from where he is but this is Ice Prince we're talking about. I didn't think he was capable of making that sound!!! 

 

@Jonathan_Kent
Buddying up with @Marinette_DC is turning about to be one of the greatest things that have ever happened. She is the cutest thing like a little kitten, and Damian approves of her 😈
Links to video of a very stiff Damian death glaring at a pale girl with dark hair

 

@abominable.barry
-1/10 would not recommend taking another foreign exchange class form France, this girl Lila or whatever keeps talking about how she helped Batman put Two-Face back into Arkham and all of the other exchange kids are just eating that shit up. While I'm over here thinking this is bitch real? Does she know that in a city like Gotham that crap will put a target on your back??

 

@CatlikeFarzan
Not gonna lie the French girls are pretty cute, stupid as hell but cute none the less P.S What's this fake news about Wayne purring?

 

@Howdidthesekidsmakeittotheeggfirst
The French class we have been preparing for finally arrived and I wish we got exchange students from the stone age instead, at least they would have some form of intelligence as this class seems to just gossip and listen to the most insane things that come out of this sausage haired morons mouth about how she is dating the Ice Prince and he is so nice and the Waynes love him, was so happy to see her bubble burst when Thomas played the video the other class taken of Queen Sausage's alleged boyfriend purring and their classmate.

 

@alessandra.the.chandra
Well, that was fast. The girl who by the way was just spouting that she had faced down Two-Face is now crying about how this Mariet girl stole her beloved Damiboo Ugh. I used to dread running into Damian asshole Wayne but now I can't wait to see him just so I can throw this girl at him. Blood would definitely get on my shirt, but it would be so worth it.
😩

Chapter Text

The sound of the classroom door slamming shut reverberated in the utterly still room. Marinette felt frozen as her eyes stayed locked on the empty spot where Damian had just been, slowly she turned her head and looked over at Jon. His impish grin had only grown, and now that his smile took over his entire face, she could see the hint of mischief hidden in his blue eyes.

She opened her mouth to ask him, what just happened, but the words were lost on her, and she promptly shut her mouth and stared blankly back at Jon. Her face mimicked that of a fish out of water, and she was unsure what to do. She closed her eyes and drew in a breath to center herself like Tikki and Wayzz taught her. As she slowly regained her composure, she opened her eyes and flicked them towards the rest of the student body. 

They were all staring at her. 

Every single student had their gaze locked onto her. Twenty-plus eyes bored into her, making her want to disappear all over again. The students' faces all shown varying degrees of disbelief, along with shock and awe. Even the teacher looked confused.  

Then suddenly, the room descended into chaos. The class, save Jon, scrambled over to Marinette, clambering on top of each other to get to her. 

"I didn't even know the Ice Prince knew how to purr!"

"What kind of spell did you put on Damian? He was almost tolerable."

She felt like she was drowning in a sea of bodies. As hands after hands gripped her arms, shoulders, and hair, each set of fingers tugging her in opposite directions. Their voices blended together, making it impossible for her to discern who said what. She was on the verge of panic, and everyone was too busy to notice her eyes darting around, looking for a way out.

Thankfully one person did notice. Jon shot up from his seat and pushed the people surrounding Marinette away. "You're all scaring her! Come on, guys, back it up!" He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder and stood protectively over her, his grin was still in place, but she could faintly see a sharp edge to it. Her fingers reached up to his hand and softly patted it, sending him a grateful smile when she was finally was able to relax a little bit.

"Jon's right, there's no need to crowd our newest student" Mr. Arsenio clapped his hands and sent out a stern glare to the kids. "Last I checked, class isn't over, so I need everyone to get their backsides back into their chair." His no-nonsense tone made the class groan together and let out a  chorus of complaints, but all it took was one look at their teacher's face to understand that his word was law. 

The rest of class was quiet, but Marinette could tell that the students were impatiently waiting for it to be over. She just hoped Jon's next class was close by. She really wasn't looking forward to being swarmed again.

The moment the bell rang, Jon scooped up both their bags and dragged her out the door before the other students could even blink. As they dashed down the hall, Marinette could feel eyes burning into her no matter how fast she ran.

For the rest of the morning, Jon kept a close eye on her, not letting any other students get too close and overwhelm her. One look from the hulking teen and he shut down any gossip floating in the air. He kept her focused on the classwork, and when they finished, he asked about her life back in Paris. She was thankful for him trying to keep things light and normal after her, frankly, bizarre first class.

"So the lunch here is pretty good, they have a few chefs on-site that prepare everything fresh" Jon paused and glanced down at her with his signature grin, "one of the perks to going to a rich kid school."

Marinette grinned back at him, "you say that like you're not one of those said rich kids."

"Actually," he turned shy suddenly and awkwardly coughed, trying his best to hide his blush. "I used to live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Kansas. I only came here after my mother and father got a sweet job down in Metropolis" her ears mustn't have picked up on it before, but Jon did, in fact, have an accent compared to the rest of the Gotham kids. She can hear it now, but she wasn't that well-versed in American accents in her defense.

"Really? Isn't Metropolis kinda far from Gotham?" Marinette's brow furrowed, for all her life, she had gone to a school that was only a few minutes walk from her home. She could never imagine going to a school so far from where she lived.

"A little, but trust me, the commute isn't so bad, at least not for me," the way he said that made Marinette believe there was a little more there then what he was letting on.

"If you say so," she shrugged as they walked to a cafeteria table while holding trays of steaming food that looked like it belonged in a five-star restaurant. 

"So what were you saying before about an Akuma?" Jon had a quizzical look on his face. They had been talking in their last class about the heroes, or vigilantes as they were called in Gotham when Marinette had mentioned that Paris had their own superheroes and villains. 

"I can't believe that you've never heard about them! I know they're not big in other countries, but I still know about the American heroes even though I don't live here." Her cheeks puffed up indignantly before she continued on "Akumas are people who have been.. what's the word... Oh!" she snapped her fingers and smiled brightly. "Brainwashed, they have been brainwashed by the villain Hawkmoth. He's the main supervillain in Paris, but there's also Mayura, his partner who sends out amoks which create monsters."

"You're telling me that for the past four years there's been a supervillain running around Paris who can turn unhappy people into his minions? And I'm just hearing about this now?" Jon held his face in his hands and groaned dramatically, peaking out through his fingers, he scanned her face "was there an attack before you came here? Your face and arms look pretty banged up."

Marinette's smile faltered as she brushed a stray hair out of her face and bit her lip. "No, one of our heroes can reverse any damage done by the Akumas... I can't even begin to tell how many times the Eiffel tower has been destroyed and brought back by Ladybug."

Jon frowned and leaned forward, "then... what happened?"

She subconsciously drew in on herself, "I had an accident yesterday." Jon looked like he wanted to say something, but she cut him off before he could get a word out. "I know it probably looks bad, but I promise it's not. I'm actually a really clumsy person, so it's pretty normal for me to get scraped up" she let out a mirthless chuckle.

That was the wrong thing to say because his expression slowly morphed into something that Marinette feared, suspicion. Now terrified of being found out, she needed to change the subject, and fast.

"Oh, probably should've told you earlier, but I can't smell anything," she smirked inwardly. Perfect, now he'll be distracted by that and won't ask any more questions about her injuries. Her ruse was flawless.

Jon's face went blank, and he stared at her, "you... can't smell? Like anything?" His mouth gaped back at her before breathing out "why?"

Fuck, maybe her ruse wasn't as good as she thought. "Well, when I went to the doctor, he told me that some people could lose their sense of smell for a while if they bruise their nose badly enough."

"B-but that... what kind of accident could have caused an injury like that? What the hell happened, Marinette?" Jon looked at her incredulously and waited with tight lips for her to respond.

"Oh, I-ugh... well, you see, I um tripped?" She winced when her words came out like a question.

"You tripped?" He blinked at her, his face, not giving anything away.

"Yes! I went to a museum, and you know since it was raining, t-the ugh steps were slippery" she shrugs a little and sends him what she hopes is a believable smile.

Jon's eyes flickered to her nose and arms before a small grimace slipped out from behind his impassive expression and hardened eyes, "I see..." 

Marinette deflated, just happy he wasn't asking any more questions about it. She quietly ate her food, actively avoiding eye contact with Jon, even though she could feel his intense stare.

"Um, Jon?" Her blue eyes flickered up as she tentatively spoke.

"Hm?" He hummed while taking a bite out of his sandwich.

"Do you take any art classes?" Jon looked surprised but quickly smiled and nodded at her.

He let out a small laugh, and the atmosphere lightened as he told her about his lack of talent when it came to art and how he was basically failing his Fundamentals of Drawing class.

Marinette was giggling as Jon pulled out his latest art assignment showing her his attempted sketch of a bowl of fruit when suddenly a tan hand slammed down on the table startling her.

She turned her head and was greeted by a scowling Alya, the creole girl's face was filled with unbridled rage, and her eyes were furious. "Sorry to interrupt, but I need to talk with Marinette" the tone of Alya's voice caused her to flinch. 

Jon narrowed his bright blue eyes. "Sorry, but as you can see, we're in the middle of something so..." he dismissively waved one of his hands in Alya's face. 

Alya's hazel eyes narrowed in return, and she clamped her fingers around Marinette's shoulder, pulling her back and out of her chair. "It won't take long, promise" Alya's smile was tight and forced, her fingers felt more like claws in Marinette's skin.

Jon was about to stand up, but Marinette's soft smile stopped him "it's ok Jon, I'll be right back." She could tell he wanted to follow, but he sat back down when she hurriedly shook her head. 

Alya roughly dragged Marinette behind her. Both girls were too preoccupied to notice most of the Academy students were glaring at Alya with disdain. They left the cafeteria in a rush, and Alya quickly led them to an empty bathroom. She slammed the door shut and clicked the lock trapping them inside, her hazel eyes scowled at Marinette's blue ones.

Alya slipped her hand into her bag and pulled out her phone, her lips were pulled into a frown, and her thick brows furrowed. Shoving the phone into Marinette's face, she waited for her ex-friend to explain herself.

Marinette's bewildered expression deepened as she watched a video play on the phone, it was shaky, but she could clearly see her face and the back of a man. The same rolling sound she had heard this morning came though the phone along with some whispered voices.

"I don't understand?" Marinette blinked at Alya's furious face.

"Girl, I can't believe you!" Alya marched forward, making Marinette take a few steps back until her back bumped into the cold wall. "You know that Lila is dating Damian Wayne, and you have the nerve to use your fake-ass scent to seduce him!" Alya was fuming as he poked Marinette's chest and drew in closer. "Lila was balling this morning because of you. She and Damian are true mates while you're nothing but a jealous slut who can't handle her place in life!"

"B-but I didn't-"

"Oh, don't even give me that! We both know how often you try to steal from Lila, only this time you won't get away with it. I can't believe you. This is the absolute lowest I've seen you stoop, and you've done some pretty awful things." Alya was shaking with rage, and spit flew as she growled out her words.

Marinette franticly shook her head fervently, denying it "n-no this morning was just a misunderstanding, I-I didn't even know who he was." 

"Really? Then why is he crooning? Hm?" Alya's hand was on her hip, and she raised a skeptical eyebrow, "how do you explain that?"

Maybe this trip wasn't going to be the escape Marinette had been looking forward to. The first day here, and its already going to shit. 

Marinette stuttered eyes franticly darting around the space "I-I... h-he... it w-wasn't a croon!"

Alya snorted, "sure, it wasn't. Just because his face isn't visible in the video doesn't mean I can see that he had eye s only for you."

"No!" Marinette surprised both of them when she shouted, "I mean, yes, was looking at me, but he wasn't p-purring."

"Then what was he doing?"

"Growling?" Marinette's tone did little to convince the would-be reporter.

"Growling?" Alya echoed her words back to her.

"Y-yes, you see, I had accidentally sat in his seat, and when he got to class, he was really mad about it, and I just froze when he told me to move, so he was growling at me." Her rambled explanation seemed to do the trick because Alya backed up and nodded.

"You better be telling the truth, Marinette!" A ding went off, and Alya looked down at her phone, huffing at Marinette, she turned heel and stalked off while texting furiously.

The black-haired girl slid down the wall, trying to steady her breathing as she watched her ex-best friend walk away, leaving her all alone. Her lips quivered, but she would not cry. It wasn't a big deal, she told herself. It's just what Lila does.

Marinette pulled herself together, got up off the linoleum floor, and made her way back into the cafeteria. She saw Jon still sitting at their table and hurried over to him.

"Sorry about that, Alya just needed to talk to me about... our hotel rooms" Jon was scowling as she sat down, but it wasn't directed at her. "What class do we have next?"

He opened his mouth to reply when a ding cut him off. Marinette pulled out her phone, where she saw three messages appear one after another, making her turn ghostly pale.

Adrien: Princess, why is there a video of trending on twitter of you and another man?

Adrien: You better give me a good reason for this because I not happy with you right now. And you know what happens when I get upset.

Adrien: Meet me after school. We need to have a conversation.

Marinette could feel a tremor course through her body and bile rise up her throat. Jon rushed over to her side and brought a hand to her forehead.

"You don't look good, what happened? Was there another Akuma attack in Paris? Is your family ok?" Jon was hovering over her as she tried to compose herself.

"No, nothing like that, I'm ok." He didn't look like he believed her, but the bell rang, signaling the end of lunch. "So, what class is next?"

 

Chapter Text

"And tomorrow, be prepared for a quiz," a tall haggard woman addressed her AP Anatomy class looking over her students' tried faces with a scowl. Mrs. Kline, a truly ancient woman who had been working at Gotham Academy for longer than anyone knew, sat with perfect posture in her desk chair. Turning her face downwards and looking over her glasses, she cast her milky brown eyes towards the back of the class, where Marinette was panicking over Jon's notebook. "Ms. Dupain-Cheng," the small girl jolted upright and darted her worried eyes to her teacher. "I understand that this is your first day, so I will give one week to study for this quiz. Come visit me sometime this week, and we'll figure out when is the best time for you to take the quiz."

"Merci, oh, I mean-" Marinette blushed over her mistake and quickly tried to switch back to English but was cut off.

"De rien." Mrs. Kline waved her hand as she spoke french in a flawless Marseille accent and went back to drawing a diagram of the human knee on the whiteboard.

Jon smirked down at Marinette while she swatted at him, then turned her attention back to her borrowed notes. She would not let her grades flounder just because the subjects are now in English and marginally more advanced. She would not allow herself to fail. 

The day's final period passed at a snail's pace, and everyone was readying themselves to bolt as soon as the bell would ring. A hushed murmur flowed through the class underneath the teacher's usual monotonous speech. Every few moments, someone would send Marinette a little smile or wave. Ever since this morning, all the other students have been overly friendly. So, much so that it has made Marinette suspicious and a little on edge. Jon noticed that she would tense when people would crowd her and did his best to be a sort of bodyguard, but he couldn't keep everyone away.  

When the bell finally rang, the girl that was sitting on Marinette's left grabbed her hand and excitedly began to chatter. 

"Mari! Oh, can I call you Mari?" Olivia leaned forwards, so her dark brown hair was curtaining her face.

"No way, Marinette is such a cute name. You can't shorten it!" Jeanette, a pretty blond, shook her head and pouted at her tablemate's idea.

"You just say that because her name is similar to your's Jean," Olivia jokingly sneered back.

"Don't you dare shorten my name! Jean is the worst nickname possible, and I forbid you from using it!" Jeanette looked horrified.

Marinette giggled as the two girls bickered and looked over to Jon as he put away his things, then looked up through his dark bangs and flicked his eyes towards the door. She nodded back to him and picked up her stuff.

"You can call me Mari, Olivia," she smiled at the girls. 

"See, I knew she would like it!" Olivia gloated at her friend, "Hey Mari, me, Jeanette, and some other girls are meeting up after school wanna come?"

Marinette was expecting that. In fact, the only class where someone hadn't asked her to hang out with them was her first-period class. She didn't know what to think about this. Was it just a typical American thing to ask the new kid to hang out? But, she couldn't help but feel slightly suspicious.

"Sorry, guys, I already have plans today," the two girls pouted, so Marinette quickly assured them, "but I'm sure we can hang out another time! I really have to get going. I'll see you tomorrow." She waved at them with a stiff smile and quickly skipped away towards Jon. The two girls scrambled up, trying to chase after her, but they weren't fast enough, and she and Jon disappeared into the crowd of students.

"Aren't you just miss popular today?" Jon's hand was tightly wrapped around hers, and he smirked down at her face.

Marinette bit her lip and mumbled out, "I have no idea why."

Jon barked out a laugh as they rounded a corner "oh come on! You're new, you're French, and you're cute, its a deadly recipe that pulls anyone under its spell." He let out a ghostly moan and waved his hands as if he was waving a magic wand.

She shoved him playfully and twirled the lock on her assigned locker. Once it clicked open, she pulled out her bag filled to the brim with books and papers, along with a dry cleaner's Garment Bag.

"Oh, what's that?" Jon leaned his massive frame on the lockers adjacent from her and took a swig from a soda can.

"This," she held up the long white bag, "is what I'm going to wear to my internship later today."

"Oh yeah? Where are you interning at?" Jon raised a brow at her, then paused and asked, "Are all the exchange students interns as well?" She shook her head as she lightly closed her locker and began walking towards the bathroom. 

"No, there's only four of us who made the cut. Actually, I'm pretty excited about it," she grinned up at him a spring in her step. "I've heard a lot of great things about Wayne Enterprises, plus I want to be able to run my own business, so this will be an invaluable experience."

When Jon heard her say, Wayne Enterprises, he nearly did a spit take. He repressed it only to fall victim to a rib racking cough as he stuttered out, "y-you, don't s-say?"

Marinette whirled around and rushed to Jon's side, patting him harshly on the back until his coughing subsided. "Are you ok?"

Instead of answering, he simply gave her a thumbs up. Then asked her, "why are you taking that to the bathroom?" He pointed at the bag.

She paused for a second and shook her head at him like he was a little kid who just asked why the sky was blue. "Because my internship starts today, and I don't have time to head back to the hotel to change." 

"Oh, that makes sense" Jon brought a hand up to his chin and rubbed it, looking very deep in thought. "I'll be out here until you're done" he leaned against the far wall and pulled out his phone and began to text. His phone had been pinging all day long, but he refused to answer any of his messages during school.

Marinette had the door pushed open slightly, then frantic turned around, so her back was to the door and waved her hands back at Jon. "No, no, you don't have to wait for me, I'm sure you have other things to do anyway!"

"No can do, as your assigned buddy, it's my sworn duty to stay by your side until you leave school grounds." He laughed, "you couldn't get rid of me even if you tried!"

Marinette stuck her tongue out at him and locked the bathroom door behind her. Rich kid schools, as she has learned, mean personal bathrooms with fancy plush couches inside them. It's a luxury she didn't know she needed in her life.

Hanging the garment bag up on its hanger's, she unzipped the bag, revealing her work  outfit  comprising a deep Prussian blue wool sweater and a fitted creme colored suede skirt. She chose something that would work with her chunky black heels and dark tights that she had worn with her school uniform.

While not vicuna, the wool was still costly. It had taken months to save up for, and even though it may look simple, she was proud of it. She had stitched her signature in the same color thread to the sweater along the back of the turtle neck so that no one would see it unless they looked. It was made from alpaca wool, and it was the softest thing she had even worn. She was sure that even in Gotham's cold weather, she would stay warm.

She let her hair out of her usual twin tails and ran her fingers through it, her dark locks flowed down to her chest in soft waves. Looking at herself in the mirror, she smiled, happy with how the outfit came together. 

Marinette walked out of the bathroom with a soft smile on her face. Jon was still leaning against the wall, but as she walked closer, she could see that he was frowning down at his phone and angrily bashing at the keys.

"Something happen?" Her soft voice must have startled him as he jumped and quickly closed his phone. 

"No, just a grouchy friend," he murmured back, sighing, then glancing up at her. "Oh, wow... You look great!" His eyes were wide as he took in her appearance, "Hey! do you mind if I take your picture? I need one for your contact info." He held up his phone and smiled at her.

She was taken aback at first but then relaxed "yeah, sure," she breathed out before smiling into the camera as Jon fussed over getting the perfect angle. 

"Perfect!" Jon grinned from behind his phone "how have you not gotten into modeling? You're a natural." 

Marinette's answering giggle was strained and self-conscious "well, my class already had a model in it." She shrugged and walked over to his side, "plus, designing is more my speed."

Jon cocked his head, much like a curious puppy, "designing... like clothes?"

"Yep, in fact, I made this outfit," she twirled and let Jon admire her hard work.

"Wow," he said breathlessly as his hand brushed against her woolen sweater, "oh, wow, this is amazing!" His blue eyes lit up like Christmas, "you're definitely gonna be famous one day with stuff like this!"

"Maybe... but for now, I'm ok with just running my online boutique," she smiled to herself mischievously, "now, come on, I need to get going!" She pulled him along as she marched down the hallways. Glancing out one of the windows as she passed by, she could see the sky was clear, meaning she wouldn't have to worry about rain today. 

Pushing open the massive entrance doors, Marinette inspected the packed courtyard for Adrien. She knew he would be waiting, and there was always a chance he might get angry if she took too long.

Spotting the perfectly styled blond hair at could only belong to Adrien, Marinette began to descend the marble stairs. 

Jon kept pace with her "hey, since I know this city like the back of my hand, I could show you the fastest way to get to WE."

Marinette paused mid-step with a confused look on her face "WE?"

"Yeah, Wayne Enterprises is such a mouth full, its easier to shorten it to WE" Jon sent his practiced smile infused with country charm at her as he explained. "Like I said, I could show you the better ways to get there. I've got nothing going on after school today, so its no problem."

Before she had a chance to reply, a hand snaked its way around her waist and pulled her into a firm chest with a vice-like grip. "There you are, Princess. I've been looking everywhere for you!". Marinette looked up to meet Adrien's ey, but he was too busy staring down Jon. She tried to move ever so slightly away only to be met with resistance and the bitting feeling of his fingers turning into claws. A low growl broke out in Adrien's voice, "who's your friend Mari?"

She could feel his arm tensing around her stomach. Adrien straightened his posture drawing himself upright, sending an icy glare at Jon. But even at his full height, Adrien's 5'11 frame barely came up to Jon's chin. Sensing that things might go south quick if she didn't soothe Adrien's ire, Marinette gently placed her hand on the arm around her, trying her best to calm him down. 

"Adrien, sorry I made you wait. I had to change in the bathroom, but this is Jon, he's my assigned buddy." Her soft melodic voice was like water to a raging fire, she watched as his eyes darted to her face with a deep grin on his face, and his body relaxed as he momentarily forgot about the other man.

His hands roamed along her back and stomach in a slow sensual pace, "and you look beautiful, my lady. Is it one of your's or have you realized that you should be spending your time doing other things?" His murky green eyes glimmered with excitement, and his smile took on an edge to it.

"No, It's one of my designs...and I haven't changed my mind," a flash of determination flicker through her eyes before she saw the look on his face, and it was gone.

Adrien leaned back and sighed longingly, "not yet, but I know you will," his index finger trailed the seam of her lips, and she saw his pupils dilate. 

Marinette pulled away and tugged him along down the steps. She looked over at Jon and saw that he was fuming. His fingers clutched dangerously at his phone, where she noticed a crack that hadn't been there before, a snarl curled at his lips, and she saw a razor-sharp fang peek out, and his jaw was clenched so hard it looked painful.

"W-we really should get going" she knew trouble when she saw it, and Jon and Adrien were on the cusp of it. As long as she kept Adrien's attention on her, then everything should be fine. She didn't know Jon well enough to gauge his response, but she knew that her new friend wouldn't fare well in a fight against Chat Noir. But he looked livid. She had to do something. "I'll see you tomorrow Jon, and I'll help you out with that art project at lunch, kay?" Hopefully, that would deescalate things on Jon's side, but it ran the risk of upsetting Adrien. 

Her plan worked partially. She saw Jon's shoulders drop, and him force out a smile, "yea, I'll see you tomorrow." She watched him hesitate as he stared at her face, looking for something. But, Adrien soon grew tired of waiting and harshly tugged her away as he walked out of the school's courtyard.

She felt Adrien's emotions shift when she promised to meet Jon, and he gripped her hand in his possessively. They might have looked like a happy couple with their intertwined hands to an outsider, but she felt the malice radiating off of him. 

As they walked down the soot lined roads and through grey buildings, she could feel his temper flaring dangerously, and his hand's grip slow tighten like a proverbial noose around her throat.

They passed a dim alleyway, and Adrien ducked into in with her in tow. He shoved her against the rough brick wall, she could feel the grit of the brick tearing at her sweater and bite at her skin. 

"Tell me, M'lady, why is it you like to test my patience?" he rested his head on her should and leaned into her neck, letting his damp breath fan out along her ear. He chuckled grimly. "I know that people flock to you like flies to honey, but that doesn't mean you should let them get close." His hand tucked her loose hair behind her ear and placed a sickenly tender kiss on her neck. " I have no problem keeping your secret, Ladybug, but I need something in return. And I know I told you I'd wait but... You. Make. It. So. Damn. Hard." as he bit out each word, his fingers dug a little deeper into her side, holding her so close that her body was flush with his. 

"I-I sorry Chatton, I- d-didn't mean-" her heart was thudding in her chest, and her breathing was shallow.

"Shh, I know bug, I know," and hushed her and leaned his face back, reaching out with his fingers to hold her chin in a feather-soft grip. "You'd never betray me. We're true mates after all" he leaned back into her neck and deeply inhaled her scent, his body shuttering in euphoria. "Just remember I'm all you have left. All your friends have abandoned you, and your parents hardly have time for you. You're so, so alone. But, you don't need anyone else right, I'm all you need." He smirked at her as tears threatened to escape her bluebell eyes. 

He leaned down, left a lingering kiss on her forehead, whispering huskily, "I promise I won't leave you, and in return, I need you to promise  that you'll always be my perfect Purincess."

Marinette desperately fought her tears as she choked out "I-I promise... don't leave me kitten, p-please."

Adrien hugged her tightly and twirled her in his arms. "That's my good girl. Now, we better get going, or we'll be late, wouldn't want to start your internship off on that foot do you?" She shook her head fervently, snot dripping from her nose and red lining her eyes.

As they exited the alleyway and she swiped at her eyes, she couldn't help but feel like eyes were burning into her.

 

Chapter Text

Marinette followed closely at Adrien's heel, her hand encased by his. He tugged her along as if on a string. Her dark blue eyes scanned the industrious buildings that lined the bustling city streets, feeling oh so very small in their company. 

The walk to Wayne Enterprises was short, barely taking any time at all, but the trek felt suffocatingly long to Marinette. She stifled a shutter when the imposing monolithic skyscraper came into view. 

Everything in Gotham was different from Paris. Even the air itself felt foreign. The color grey permeated the skyline with its steel structures cutting into it at jagged angles. There was nothing remotely comforting about this city.

She must have been gawking for too long because Adrien harshly pulled her forward. He pushed her into the crystalline glass revolving doors stepping in after her, his hands coming to rest on her shoulders in a comforting gesture, but it only heightened her unease.

Marinette was blasted with heat as the doors slowly turned open, chasing away the coldness that had seeped into her bones and flushed her cheeks. Ladybugs don't do well in the cold. And outside, Gotham was very much a winter wonderland.

The building's inside was sleek and modern, which stood in stark contrast to the rest of the city's brick and mortar gothic style. The white marble flooring echoed the clicking heels of business men and women. She entrance opened into an airy space with beautiful arched ceilings that went up three levels. 

Marinette was in awe by the space, how she wished she had the time to sketch out the room, as it was one of the most stunning places she had even been. 

"Come on, Bugaboo. Lila and Max are waiting," Adrien's finger curled a stray hair behind her ear as he spoke to her in a hushed voice. She nodded at him and let him shepherd her forward towards one of the many reception desks. 

"Oh, Adrien, you made it," Lila greeted them with a fake smile plastered on her face. But, when she noticed Marinette, her smile fell and was replaced with mock concern, "I'm so glad you made it on, I was worried when I heard you were with Marinette, it's just we all know how she has a knack for getting lost." Lila's viper smile hissed the silent words,  you're not wanted here,  at Marinette.

Adrien laughed, "don't worry. I was the one with the directions, Lila." He cast a questioning look at his two classmates, "how long have you guys been here?"

Max pushed his glasses up and stated in a slightly robotic voice, "I arrived first, and Lila arrived a few minutes after. We've been waiting for you for approximately," he paused and looked at his watch, "seven minutes." 

The sound of clicking heels drew closer, causing the group of teens to turn around. A woman in her early thirties had approached them. Worry lines and wrinkles marred her face. She had lost her youth through the years of working at the company. Everyone knew that Mr. Wayne held high expectations for his employees, and no one wanted to disappoint Mr. Wayne.

"The French interns, I presume," her clip tone and critical eyes made the four teenagers straighten their posture. "Welcome to Wayne Enterprises. My name is Adela Volland, and I am the coordinator for your..." she sneered "time with us." She turned heel and motioned for them to follow her, and like little ducks, they did. "Now, we have no time to make pleasantries, you all have a packed itinerary planned out, so I hope you had the good sense to eat something before you came because breaks are not permitted."

"Not even for the bathroom?" Lila's sheepish voice made Adela stop causing Max, who had been right behind their guide, bump into the very aggravated woman. 

"Since you somehow managed to get this internship, I would expect you to know the answer to your question." Lila gulped at her remark. And, with that, the rest of their trip was silent. 

Marinette was in the last place when it came to the little line of interns. She was content with this, as it made it impossible for Lila to try and trip her or for anything else nefarious. 

They all crowd into an elevator as Adela swipes a security pass on the electronic lock, letting her access some of the restricted levels. "Kanté, Max, you will be shadowing Micha Arissen, one of our IT assistants, whatever they tell you to do..." she glares down at the quiver lad " you. do ." She raised one of her perfectly manicured eyebrows, "understand?"

"Y-yes," Max stuttered out as the elevator doors opened. One look at Adela and he knew that this was his stop. Marinette watched him hesitantly step out and look around like a lost lamb as the doors closed behind him.

"Next, stop is Rossi, Lila." At the sound of her name, Lila drew herself up and forced out her barest smile. "Ms. Celeste Broz will be who you report to. She an assistant on the Marketing floor." The elevator doors opened, and Adela unceremoniously pushed her out and pressed another button shutting the doors again.

"Agreste, Adrien, you're the only son of Gabriel Agreste, correct?" Adrien nodded at her. "Since you already have some history with a multimillion-dollar business, It was decided that you would be placed in the Operations department. You will be headed under Mr. Nesim Falk, who is not an assistant, unlike your classmates' superiors. Mr. Falk is one of our engineers, and while you're with us, you will be assisting him with one of his many projects. Nothing major as we can't risk anything significant going to waste in your untrained hands."

The steel elevator doors opened, and Adrien confidently strutted out, smirking back at Marinette, who was now all alone with the absolutely terrifying Adela.

Marinette warily watched the back of Adela's head as they both waited for the elevator to take them to wherever she would be working. Somehow she musters up the courage to ask Adela a question.

"Excuse me, Ms.Volland. Where will I be working?" 

The stoic woman head tilts back minutely and looks over Marinette as if inspecting an insect. Adela flips open a file and scans a document before turning to face her, "Dupain-Cheng, Marinette, quite a unique name you have, I must tell you you've surprised me, I didn't expect you of all the interns to have the courage to address me properly." The tired woman's thin eyebrows furrowed. "You'll be working on the Purchasing floor, overseeing the management of our products going out and our investments coming in. And, Mr. Dimitri Mikhailov will be your supervisor, who, as I had stated before, is an assistant, but remember he's still much higher up the food chain then you are."

"Of course, I was simply curious to see where we were headed," with  Adrien and Lila both gone. Marinette felt as though she could breathe for the first time and a surge of confidence flowed through her veins.

Adela eyed her curiously as the elevator doors opened, and Marinette walked out without as much as a nervous tick in her small frame. 

Once she was out in the open, she could see how massive the building truly was. The purchasing floor expanded out in all directions with no end in sight, a few windows here and there showed that she was indeed high up within the skyscraper. She stifled the feeling of vertigo when she got too close to one of the floor-length windows. And against her better judgment, she cast her eyes downwards at the street below.

She had no idea where she was supposed to go, or where Dimitri Mikhailov might be, but she was unwilling to show weakness in the presence of so many highfalutin people. After wandering for a few minutes, she came to what looked like a concierge desk near the elevators only in the opposite direction she had walked in. That was just her luck, wasn't it.

She noticed that no one was working the desk, but there was a young man who was standing off to the side, glancing at his watch and looking impatient. As she came closer, he glanced up, and his expression softened.


"Hello, by chance, would you be Mlle Dupain-cheng?" He spoke with a thick Moscow accent, and his smile was positively charming.

"Oui, but Marinette is fine, and would you be Dimitri Mikhailov?"

"Da, I am, but please call me Dima" He held out his hand for her to take, when she did, his grip was firm but not forceful, a very practiced interaction. "I hope you've come prepared to work because we are already behind schedule-"

"Oh, no, I didn't mean to take so long to find you!" Marinette quickly fell into her habit of catastrophizing "how far behind are we, and what can we do?"

Dima threw his head back and let out a deep throaty laugh "none our of department's infamous reputation is due to you, miss. I assure you we've been behind schedule for the past five years. If anything, I believe you've already pushed us a little closer to being on time. I had half expected you to show up an hour late with maze-like this building is."

Marinette giggled, a sense of calm washing over her "that's a relief. So Dima," she smiled up at him, "what are we going to start on today?"

Dima gave her a short tour before he leads her to a cubical and drops a stack of paperwork in her lap, that's so substantial the desk almosts buckles under the weight. She spent the better part of three hours filling out forms, transferring said documents into the purchasing archives. She felt terrible keeping Tikki confined to her pocket for school and her internship, but there was little she could do, plus the little god refused to be parted from her chosen. 

Once she finished the paperwork, Dima gave her the much more interesting assignment of sorting through the personal time logs and logging in how much overtime each person had earned. It was all quite riveting. 

Her red-tinted eyes blearily blinked at the computer screen, staring back at her. It was getting close to nine. She should probably let Dima know she would be headed out soon. Thankfully her cubical was facing his, so it was as easy as merely speaking aloud.

Her legs were numb, and her arms felt like jelly. She groaned pitifully, "Hey, Dima..."

"Da Marinette, what is it?" Dima's head popped but over their shared half wall, his dark eyes peeking over the edge.

"The bus that takes us back to our hotel leaves at nine, so I probably need to head out soon." She grabbed her bag and stood up on shaky legs,  then looked around and remembered how much of a maze Wayne Enterprise really was. "Ugh, Dima..."

"Da, Varobushek?" Dima must like giving people nicknames because not even five minutes into working together, he had started calling her Varobushek. And he refuses to tell her what it means!

"How busy are you?" She knew she would need a guide to make it to the lobby before the bus left.

"Like right now?" Dima leaned back in his chair and looked incredulously at her.

"Yeah, as in this very moment, what is your workload like?" She didn't want to bother Dima if he was swamped. She could go it alone if she really needed to.

"Ughh, normal, I think why?" He scratched the back of his head as he sighed out his words.

"Well, since you're not like, super busy, would you mind walking me down to the lobby?" Her gaze was firmly set on her fingers as she asked him for this favor.

Dima simply grinned at her and stood up, stretching out his arms and popping his back. He rounded the corner and walked up to her, "of course, Varobushek, let's go." 

"Merci, Dima, you're a lifesaver," she answered his grin with one of her own.

They chatted as they made their way to the main floor. Dima told Marinette about growing up in Moscow, how he has three little sisters, the youngest just starting school this year. In return, she told him about her life in Paris, about her parent's bakery, and the city's own set of superheroes and villains.

"Pravda? I'm surprised I haven't heard anything about Paris' situation, and you said it's been going on for four years?" Dima's mouth was gaping open as she recounted the Syren incident. He couldn't believe the rest of the world hadn't been clued in on a super-powered villain inside the city of love.

"I know it's pretty crazy. But, you have to know that Paris' main source of income is tourism and if it got out how dangerous the city has become... I think the mayor is doing his best to keep it quiet." Marinette chewed on her lip, suddenly wanting to change the subject.

Luckily for her, it was at that moment, the elevator dinged, and the doors opened to the lobby. She hopped out and waved goodbye to Dima.

"See you tomorrow Varobushek," he crossed his arms and leaned against the wall as the doors shut. She was alone now, but at least she wasn't lost.

Looking around the room, she saw Max and discreetly talking into his coat, which probably means that he brought Markov. She quickly made her way over to them. She tapped Max on his shoulder, causing him to jump.

"Gah!" his head franticly swiveled around, meeting her friendly face and small smile, breathing out a sigh of relief "oh, it's just you."

"Salut Max," She switched to speaking French, there was no reason to struggle with English anymore. "How was working in IT?"

He fixed his coat and stood a little straighter looking a tad suspect. "Oh, um it was good, yeah, it was good," his eyes darted around as he spoke to her.

"How did Markov like it?" His face went ashen, and he began to shake.

"I-I don't... what is a Markov? Y-you're ridiculous, I-i...." he sputtered.
Marinette leaned over and whispered in his ear, "don't worry, I won't tell anyone."

His posture slacken, and he sighed in relief "thanks, Marinette, I didn't want to leave him all alone in my hotel room. I owe you one."

She waved her hands and shook her head. "It's no problem, Max, ugh, no even worry about it."

"Marinette! I hope you're not slacking off." Lila appeared and chided Marinette, "you know we're not supposed to leave early."

She groaned inwardly, "I didn't leave early, Lila, I wasn't even the first one in the lobby."

Lila's eyes narrowed "still..." 

"Hey, Lila, what'd you get up to in marketing?" Max greeted cheerfully.

Lila clasped her hands together and cooed, "Oh, it was so hectic when I first got there. I hardly had any time to greet my workmates." She blushed, "I don't want to brag, but I might be moving up in the company soon."

Max gasped and excitedly rushed over to her "Wayne enterprises is notoriously competitive. What'd you do to get noticed so soon?"

"Oh, well, I was filling out some paperwork when I saw some numbers that seemed wrong, so I told my supervisor about it, and they were shocked because it looked like someone was embezzling millions of dollars right under their noses. By the end of the day, I caught the person responsible, and now my supervisor thinks I have a good chance to become a full-blown employee after our internship!" Lila dramatically recounted the very fake story, Max ate up her every word, and Marinette simply rolled her eyes and pulled out her phone.

Glancing up, Marinette saw Adrien walking over, not wanting anything to do with him, she distanced herself from the group and made herself comfortable on a nearby bench. It was a few minutes before nine, so she wasn't worried about missing the bus anymore, so she opened up her MDC website and looked through what commissions she had lined up.

Lila's green eyes slid over to Marinette, seeing her lost in her own little world made her annoyed. Marinette, now was, in Lila's world, and as such, the little brat should never be happy. Lila smirked to herself. The little goody-two-shoes should have been paying more attention to her surroundings. Marinette was too busy to notice Lila loosen the lip on her coffee cup as she sauntered over. 

Just as Marinette was about to log off, she felt the sensation of a boiling hot liquid covering her skin. She let out a gasp of pain and shot up from her seat, looking around wide-eyed, she met the mirthful gleam of Lila's green eyes.

"Oh, I am so sorry, Marinette! I swear I didn't mean to. It's just my Dystonia sometimes causes muscle spasms." Lila brought a hand up to her forehead in mock dismay and began to cry. She sniffled out, "I know we don't always get along, but I hope you won't hold my illness against me."

Lila's dramatics were drawing a crowd of onlookers. She hoped none of them could understand french. As the horde of strangers eyed Marinette, she felt compelled to say something so that they would all go away. Adrien must have heard the commotion, and he rushed over to try and diffuse the situation.

"Of course, Marinette knows you didn't mean to," his own pair of toxic green eyes locked on to her own set of worried blues, silently telling her to obey. He hissed in at her in French, "right, Marinette?"

She shifted under his gaze, finding it difficult to break out of the trance he put her under. she bowed her head, not wanting to be caught in his spotlight like vision anymore, "o-of course Adrien."

"So, this is the new batch of interns?" The sudden sound of a baritone voice caused the four students to jump. A man leisurely strolled over to the group of teens. He was dressed in a fitted suit that did little to hide the physique underneath. "Can't say I'm overly impressed with the spectacle they've created." The man looked down at them over his glasses perched on the tip of his nose, the utter disdain clearly shown on his face made them all tremble. 

Marinette lifted her head and shifted her eyes towards the unknown man. But as she inspected him, a realization slowly dawned on her. Her sapphire eyes widened, and her mouth dropped a little. It was possible that the man wasn't as unknown, as she had initially thought.

Switching back to English, she exhaled, "Tim?" She had expected to run into him sometime during her internship, but not so soon. 

"Oh, Marinette, while it's lovely to see you again, I wish it was in better circumstances." He crossed the distance between them in seconds, looming over her, and took in her disheveled appearance. He's simple grew tight, and a dark look crossed over his blue hues, causing ice to fill her veins. 

The crowd's hushed voices grew in volume. They had never seen their CEO take an interest in an intern before. Hell, it was practically unheard of to have him leave his office before ten o'clock, yet here he was greeting a low-level intern as if they were long lost, friends. 

Adrien glowered at Tim, not taking kindly to another alpha touching what was his. He schooled his face into his model's smile and threw an arm over Marinette's shoulder before addressing Tim in a pleasant tone. "Sorry about the mess, sir. Marinette can be a bit of a klutz sometimes-"
 
Tim shut him up with a glare and pulled Marinette out from under his arm "save your excuses. I'm not interested." Adrien suppressed a growl as Tim lead Marinette away. "Marinette, come with me. Adela!" He shouted, and Ms. Volland appeared next to him.

"Yes, sir?"

"Take Ms. Dupain-Cheng away and get her a change of clothes, I'll deal with the rest of the Interns." Marinette watched, gobsmacked as Tim berated Max, Lila, and Adrien and shoved cleaning supplies into their hands. Adela lead her away to a private bathroom.

"Stay here. I'll be back with some clothes," Adela smiled at Marinette's perplexed face.

"Wait, don't you need-" but the door shut before Marinette could finish "my measurements?" She looked down into her coffee-soaked purse at Tikki, "Are you ok?"

"A little sticky, but the heat doesn't affect me as it does to humans, are you ok, Marinette?" Tikki floated up and inspected the reddening skin on her chosen's arms. Huffing, the little god spoke, "sometimes I wish Plagg would eat Lila or at least curse her."

Marinette laughed softly and petted Tikki's head, "Thanks for your concern, but I'm ok." She smiled and took the red god into her hand and brought Tikki to her face giving her a little hug.

A knock sounded at the door, and Tikki zoomed back into her purse. Adela entered holding a bag "here this should suffice until you get home," she nodded at the soaked girl and left her to change.

The clothes weren't as nice as her sweater, but at least they were dry. Marinette quickly changed and made her way out of the bathroom, where Adela was waiting for her. 

"I'll take the damaged clothes and have them dry cleaned for you" Adela held out her hand to take the wet clothes from her.

"Thank you, miss" Marinette's thanks was met with the retreating back of her superior. Sighing, she made her way back to the lobby, where she saw the bus waiting outside. Finally, the day was over, she just had survived a few more weeks of this, and then she would be back in Paris.

Chapter Text

Sweat pooled in the crevice above Damian's clavicle. He lay in bed with his black silk sheets crumpled at his feet, panting. The cool silk caressing his bare skin chilled the raging inferno beneath his skin. His heart pounded within his chest. He felt as though he had just fought joker and lost—the harsh gasps of breath, the racing pulse, and utter helplessness of his condition.

Hopeless and lost, his mind was swept up in thoughts of her. Her scent, her hair, her face, her lips, her eyes. Fuck, it was too much but also not enough, his back arched as a phantom orgasm coursed through his body. 

His body felt like a prison, a cage he could not escape from, and the haze of lust acted as his shackles. Fuck! He thrashed, growling lowly, a snarl on the cusp of his lips, all the while his inner alpha whined and howled for the mate it was pinning for.

His deep green eyes were glazed over, and his vision hazy. The world felt as if it was an illusion, just wisps of incorporeal objects decorating his sight. He clawed at the imagined figure of Marinette. He saw her in his bed, next to him, caressing his cheek and stroking his sweat-slicked hair. He conjured her silky voice, whispering sweet nothings into his ear as the fleeting feeling of her fingertips brushed against his sweltering skin.

He had been in this condition for hours, but every second felt like a lifetime. Time moved in pace with his hand, up and down, forwards and backward, caught in an endless tug of war with his conscious. One moment he was lost in his most deplorable thoughts, how he could-would fuck her, curling over her trapping her in his embrace, holding her still as he rutted unrelenting into her. Then the next moment, he remembered the look on her beautiful face, that fear, the uncertainty, how could he think of her like this when she had rejected him. 

He had never been rejected before. Ever since he was a boy, people had thrown themselves at his feet, begging for his attention, and he had never once given into their pleads. He was above them, above his schoolmates, and above his siblings. No one came close to being worthy of his attention. But she was supposed to be the person who complimented him, the one soul who was designed for him, someone who would be on his level—an equal.

So why, wasn't she reciprocating? Her scent alone caused him to croon, and when he noticed her fear, he forced himself to purr so than she knew he wasn't a threat. So, why didn't she answer? 

She was one of the exchange students, so there was no way for her to know of his reputation yet. It had only been the end of first period when he got there. She couldn't have been influenced by his classmates yet... Right? Fuck, what if she already decided against him from what others had said about him? Is that why she didn't purr back because some nobody poisoned her mind against him. 

He clenched his teeth at the thought, fingers tearing the fabric clutched within his grasp. He would kill the person who turned his true mate against him. He would tear them apart, sever their limbs from their body, feed them to Titus and force them to watch as their pitful life came to a close by his hands.

Desire once again pooled in his gut, making thoughts of anything other than Marinette impossible. His fingers trailed down his chest, pausing before curling around his already erect cock. He couldn't help the way he hissed at the sensation of his calloused fist on the smooth skin. He wondered how Marinette's hands would feel. They would be soft and delicate; she would use them to tease his length until he was begging for more until he was about to go insane because of the need. His breathing was shallow as he moved his hand in time with his fantasy. He imagined how her voice would quiver, how she was would shyly look into his heated eyes.

A low whine escaped from his throat as he thrashed in bed. How long had he been like this? It had to be hours, maybe days... no, no, if it had been days, father or Grayson would've come to check on him. He knew, logically, that time couldn't move that fast, but dealing with a rut was like living in his personal aljahim. Alone while desperate for company, a heartbeat on the verge of cardiac arrest, and orgasm that could never be reached unless he had his true mate with him. But she was so far away that he felt like sobbing. He had never dealt with a rut so intense before, or been in one where his regular suppressants didn't work. It was hell on earth.

"Master Damian?" A soft knock tore him from his self-loathing, Alfred's voice was like ice to a fire, and the lust that ravaged his body was extinguished. He quickly moved to cover himself, not wanting to speak to him naked.

"What is it, Alfred?" The gruffness of his voice surprised the young man. His horse voice growled without meaning to. It sounded as if he had been in the middle of swallowing handfuls of sand. 

"I may be mistaken... but if my memory serves me correctly, I distinctly recall Master Bruce telling you this morning that your presence would be required at school today." While Alfred's tone was light, as it always was, he could hear the slight chid in his voice.

Damian grumbled under his breath, saying some choice words in his native Arabic. Alfred either didn't hear or chose not to say anything. "Something came up, I won't be able to attend" the house was used to Damian's curt way of speaking, so it came to no surprise to his pseudo grandfather that he would have to pull the answers out of the young man.

"I'm sorry to hear that, do you require assistance?" Damian knew that Alfred wouldn't enter without permission, but he still shot out of bed when he heard the slight turn of the doorknob.

"No! I am fine, don't come in!" He rushed over to where, earlier that morning, he had tossed his clothes in a heap.

"I cannot, in good conscious leave you alone, Master Damian. You indeed sound quite ill, I will need to inform Master Bruce of your condition." He knew, he knew that this was a trap, but he wasn't in the right headspace to deal with it.

"No! Do not inform, father of this" Damian's eyes were wild as he hastily pulled on a pair of boxers, not caring to put anything else on, then stalked over to the door. Throwing it open, he saw that Alfred was still standing just outside the threshold, hand no longer holding the doorknob.

Alfred's grey-blue eyes appraised his haphazard appearance, which stood in stark contrast to his usual style of perfectly slicked back hair and pressed suits. But if this surprised Alfred, the man did not show it.

A silent moment went by as the two men stared at each other; Damain's eyes narrowed, trying to intimidate, while Alfred's eyes were as relaxed as they always were. 

"It would seem that your rut was triggered early." Alfred's nose flared slightly as he spoke, his tone as flat as it usually was.

Damian snarled, slamming his fist against the thick wooden door, "I don't know what you are talking about."

"Do you need a higher dosage for your rut suppressants?" The cool tone of the aging man's voice made Damian shake with rage. How dare the butler, mock his predicament. But he knew that if his rut was suppressed before anyone else got home, then he might be able to persuade Alfred into keeping quiet.

"Yes," Damian bit out his words, the hiss of his voice like a snake's, spitting venom at his target. Alfred nodded at him, not acknowledging the aggressive alpha posturing as he walked away. Damian could feel the rage welling up inside of him. He had gone too long without giving in to his carnal needs. 

Stalking back into his room, he slammed the door behind him and felt the reverberations through the floor. His hand raked aggressively through his damp hair. On the one hand, he was pleased to hear that Alfred would be getting him something that would end his suffering, but one the other, he knew that it would somehow come back to bite him in the ass.

He threw himself on to his bed, flopping down in a dramatic huff, he rested his forearm on his face, sighing, and with his other hand, he reached over to his side table and picked up his phone. He can vaguely remember hearing it pinging throughout the morning as he was suffering the effects of an induced rut. 

Sliding the lock screen open, Damian saw that Jon had been texting him consistently since the early morning. 

 

Kent: You made quite the impression on my new buddy, or should I say she made quite the impression on you ;D

Kent: Not sure if you heard me through the haze of meeting your soulmate, but your mate's name is Marinette Dupain-Cheng

Kent: P.S. She. Is. Adorable.

Kent: P.P.S. don't get jealous I mean, she's adorable in like a baby animal kind of way.

Kents: Ohhh, I have no idea what kind of joke God was playing when he paired the two of you cause she is sunshine incarnate and you... well, are you.

Kent: Ah, I just found out that you do, in fact, have something in common! But I'm not going to tell XP .

Kent: Ugh, I can't stop myself. You're both artists, isn't that sweet! She designs clothes while you do animal portraits. OMG! you guys are going to be that cute artsy couple who hangs out in the park just to draw!!

 

Damian scrolled past another twenty messages of Jon's raving, taking note of the information about his mate that was scattered throughout Jon's gushing and squealing, but paused when he read one of the more recent messages.

 

Kent: I've got news both good and bad, but you have to promise not to freak out.

Kent: So, since you're not answering, I'm going to assume that you're in the middle of a rut. Knowing you, you'd probably want the bad news first... So um, Marinette's face is kind of messed up, well more accurately, her nose is messed up. But the good news is she didn't reject you because you're ugly or an absolute asshole. In fact, she didn't reject you at all. She just has no idea that you are her mate. She hurt herself yesterday, so now she can't smell anything. But, I'm kind of suspect about how she got hurt. 

 

Damian reread the message over and over, shocked, and in disbelief. His rage reared it's ugly head again, and all he wanted to do was launch his phone at the nearest wall and see the infernal device break into pieces.

While he had never given much thought to how he would meet his mate, his brothers didn't share his reluctance, and they all happily spouted nonsense of how they would sweep their other half odd their feet. When Dick had met Koriand'r it was a far cry from a romantic novel entrance, but it still had a lingering sort of charm.

Damian had none of that, his soulmate was clueless and only here for a limited time, so it was up to him to figure out how to convince her that they were meant to be. 

But how? That was the question, wasn't it. But, he had no idea where to go from this, so he read on.

 

Kent: Her heartbeat sped up a little when she told me how it happened, and not long after, this other French exchange student came by and practically dragged Mari to the bathroom. It was sus.

Kent: She called the other girl Aya. So when you get back, I'd keep a close watch on your mate whenever she's around, cause she basically threatened Mari when she interrogated her in the bathroom.

Kent: The rest of the French class also is giving off weird vibes. I don't trust them.

 

Damian trusted Jon with his life. If his friend was wary of the exchange class, then so was he. But that made him wonder if he should be suspicious of Marinette as well because she was one of them, and if something is up, she's probably apart of it too. That was the end of this morning's messages, and it looked like Jon had only started texting him again once school was over.

 

Kent: You mate is interning at WE, so that should give you an excuse to hang out with her ;D

Kent: Hey, did you know the famous model Adrien Agreste is one of the exchange students? 

Kent: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Kent: *Image attached*

Kent: You are so lucky. She is adorable and talented. I couldn't even tell that her outfit was handmade. Apparently, she makes most of her clothes! 

 

As Damian opened the image, he ended up swallowing air and coughing violently. He didn't know what he had expected, but it wasn't a picture of his soulmate is a short skirt and a skintight navy blouse.

He couldn't help the deep blush that covered his face. While he had known that she was a pretty girl, but they're meeting had been so brief that he hardly had the time to take in the details of her face. But he was wrong; she was not just another pretty girl, she was breathtaking, a mortal goddess that graced the world with a view of the divine. 

Suddenly his boxer felt all too tight, and he was reminded that his rut wasn't over quite yet. He gawked on his lip, spilling drops of blood down his chin as his eyes bored into the picture, drowning in the details of Marinette. How her midnight hair flowed out along her shoulders, he desperately wanted to know how it felt to run his fingers through those locks. The smoothness of her skin, how supple it looked in the dim school lighting, he just knew that one touch would send him spiraling.

He tossed his phone down onto his bed and let his hand wander. His thumb brushed against the tip of his cock, and hissed. He needed to hold her close, he needed to keep her near, he was going mad, and her presence was the only cure to his illness.

How was this the fairytale moment everyone talked about? All he got out of meeting his mate was making a fool out of himself and a rut so intense he could hardly think. Damian wanted to blame Marinette, wanted to scream and rage at her, but he couldn't. His inner alpha cried out for her. Every time he thought of her, he was filled with a comforting warmth that made his anger vanish. But that in itself made him even angrier. How dare this puny girl reduce the great Damian Al-Ghul Wayne to a simpering fool? 

He berated himself as his fingers wrapped around the bulbous head of his cock. His dick was red and slick from precum dripping out of the slit. While he may be unable to fully cum without his mate, all that meant was that he was in an endless cycle of build-up and then denial. Yet, somehow, the pain of the hellish cycle didn't compare to the brutal agony if he ignored his problem.

Damian sighed in relief as he lazily thrust into his fist. His emerald eyes fluttered shut as his teeth came down onto his lip, his breath slipped out through his tightly clenched teeth. He leaned an arm against the wall and hunched forward, his body trembled as his fingers glided over his foreskin and down his shaft. 

His hips rutted forward as he moved his hand up and down, he slowly pressed his forehead into the wall letting his other arm drop down to cock. As one hand made a tight fist for him to rut into, the other came down even lower, to where his heavy balls dangled. Tentatively grasping the sensitive organ, he explored what felt the best to him. Cupping his balls and rolling them in his fingers, he gasped as his hips bucked up harshly. It felt so, so good. The only thing that would make it better would be if Marinette's hands replaced his own.

Suddenly his phone was pinging again, jerking him from his fantasy. Growling in frustration, Damian jerked upright and stalked over to his bed and tore at the bedsheets looking for the infernal device that kept interrupting him. 

But when he read the message, he was filled with dread.

 

Kent: Ok, remember how I said that model was apart of the program? Well, he's a problem.

Kent: All you need to know is that he's a bad influence on your mate...

Kent: That's all I'm going to say until we can talk face to face, no one needs you going on a warpath yet.

Chapter Text

Damian's chest heaved up and down as he lay in bed, his arms extended outwards. His vision shook, and his head pounded. It had been a little less than an hour since Alfred had come back with the higher dose, and ever since taking those damn pills, Damian had been steadily getting worse. While his rut symptoms had subsided, a new myriad of ailments took over. 

No longer was he tormented by unending carnal hunger, now he was on the bad end of a trip caused by a cocktail of morphine and panacea. His body wouldn't stop shaking, chills and tremors replaced the sweltering heat he had felt during his rut. What hadn't changed was the fever. If anything, it had risen.

He felt the cold in his bones, Yet he couldn't stop sweating, which chilled him even further. His tongue was bone dry, and the remnants of the pills coated its surface. All he could taste was the flavor of those damn pills; ash and tar, a combination so vile it made him gag. But, no matter how much his body craved to empty the contents of his stomach onto the floor, he knew that he would be forced to down another dose if he gave in to his body's wishes.

He needed water. Ah, he would do anything for water. He would read Todd's romance novels, banter with Grayson, or even if pressed, hug Drake. 

Staggering to his feet, Damian lurched forward. He pressed his hand into the wall, using it as a cane, propping him up and kept him moving in a straight line. His vision swam with his every step. He felt like he was walking through turbulent water, every current and wave trying to pull him under. 

Damian, by the grace of God, managed to trudge into the kitchen. His dull eyes blankly looked around, searching for where Alfred might have stored the cups.

He began his search with the first cupboard his eyes landed on. He threw open the oak cabinet doors, creating a loud bang, then dropped to his knees and haphazardly ransacked its innards. No cups, only copper pots. Shuffling over a few inches, he began anew. Cabinet after cabinet, he rummaged with the mannerisms of a starving caveman in the middle of a winter hunt. 

But, somehow, he still could not find a single Goddamn cup.

Suddenly the kitchen door opened, making Damian jump to his feet. His stomach lurched, and he fought to keep what little he had inside his gut there. Alfred stood in the doorway, gun in hand, glaring at the would-be intruder, but once his eyes fell on Damian's bedraggled form, his expression softened. 

"Master Damian, what are you doing out of bed?" Pocketing the firearm, the elderly man strode over to Damian's side, gently easing the often irate young man into leading on him. "Come now, let's get you onto the couch if you're so unhappy with your bed," Damian grumbled but didn't fight against being moved.

"Water," Damian's raspy voice cracked.

"Alright, Master Damian, I'll get you some water, but first, let's get you to the couch, hm?" For a man of his age, Alfred moved swiftly even under the dead weight of a two-hundred-pound man. Damian groaned as he moved his head in a jerky nod, feeling pinpricks of pain across his closed eyes.

Alfred leaned over to fluff a pillow and eased Damian off his shoulder and onto the couch, resting the young man's head on the pillow. He picked up Damian's legs, lifted them onto the cushion, maneuvering the prone boy's body into a comfortable position. He nodded at his work, then scanned the room for a suitable blanket. The elderly man quickly pulled a lush wool quilt over Damian's still body. He could see Damian's eyes fluttering in his sleep, but other than that, he looked dead to the world.

 

Alfred softly left the room. He switched off the lights and shut the doors without a sound, hoping that the youngest Wayne would finally get some quality sleep.

Dick Grayson exhaled in a long and drawn-out sigh. His hands were so numb that he could hardly feel the smooth leather of the steering wheel as he leisurely drove home. All the man wanted to do was get home and dive into his omega's nest so that he could cuddle his Kor'i and little Mar'i until he couldn't tell where he ended, and they began.

But, things were never that simple for him. He had duties to uphold and a family that counted on him. And while he didn't love assisting in the family business's darker side, sometimes there was no other option. With Damian too busy with the exchange kids to look over the finer details, it fell on Dick. But it sure was grueling. He wondered how Demon spawn did it. Yeah, he knows that baby bird sometimes relished in the gore and carnage, but fuck did it affect him!

He always forgot how horrible it was on this side. He and Tim thought they had it tough with shark lawyers and tabloids, but it was nothing compared to witnessing an 'interrogation' in action. 

He should just call what it is torture. 

Maybe he should swallow his pride and ask Jason to let him take over the weapon's shipments instead. Then, of course, Jason would lord it over him for way too long, proclaiming himself the superior sibling. But,  his family should've known better. They've all seen him shake and shiver when horror movies got too real. So, why did Bruce think it would be a good idea in the first place?

Dick pulled into the Wayne estate and swiftly parked the car in one of the many garages. He rolled his neck and twisted his back, letting his bones crack and pop, and a groan escaped his lips as he did it. It had been a very long day, but now thankfully, it was over. 

Maybe, if he asked very nicely,  Alfred would whip him up a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

Dick opened the manor's main entrance doors, and as he stepped into the foyer, he was surprised at the absence of Alfred's calming presence. This wasn't normal, not at all. Alfred was borderline psychic, and he always knew when someone was about to come into the manor. There was no way he wouldn't have been there to greet them... Unless something happened to him.

Oh, god, oh god, oh god!! Dick's breath hitched, his hand moved without thinking he reached into his pocket and pulled out his pistol. It wouldn't be the first time some naive fool broke into the family's estate but, most people had more concern for their health than idiocy to do it. Dick pressed his back against the far wall and carefully surveyed the room. Strange... he thought as he searched again, it didn't look like anything was out of place, but he couldn't relax just yet. Just because nothing seems out of place doesn't mean something isn't amiss. 

He quickly moves through the foyer, then he goes from room to room, looking for anything that would tell him what the hell is going on. As he clears the main floor, he moves upstairs, where he saw a door leading into one of the parlors ajar. He silently edged closer, hands sweating from how tightly he clutched his weapon. He used the barrel of his gun to push open the door. He looked in and saw nothing. It was pitch black in there. All the curtains must have been closed, turning the usually brightly lit place into a cesspool of darkness. 

He stepped in, careful not to make a sound. In the still room, he could make out the sound of soft breathing coming from the center. He wasn't alone.

Dick ran his hand along the wall, searching for the light switch. Once his fingers snagged on the toggle, he flicked it on, and light flooded the room. A blanket was draped over a slumbering figure on one of the leather couches. He could hear a slight rattle in their steady breathing. Cautiously he crept closer.

When Dick rounded the couch, he had to bite back a snort. His youngest brother, Damian, was snuggled up and passed out on the couch. Somehow his brother resembled more of a kitten than the devil he was known as. Damian's face was scrunched up in a scowl but with the way his cheeks smooshed up from resting on a pillow made it all the more adorable. Dick fought with himself to keep his fingers to himself, but God did he want to poke at Demon Spawn's cheek.

"Master Dick, your brother needs his rest" Alfred, with his cat-like footsteps, came into the room without a sound, causing Dick to jolt at the unexpected sound of his voice.

Dick's body followed his head as he turned it to face Alfred, the older man motioned for him to follow, and the two men left the room. Before leaving, Alfred flicked the light switch and let the dark creep back into the almost silent room.

"Wha-" Dick began, but Alfred stopped him with a softly stern look.

Only after the doors were firmly shut did Alfred start to whisper, "Master Dick, earlier this morning Master Damian returned home looking quite ill." 

Dick paused as Alfred headed towards the kitchen, his mouth was slightly agape, and his eyes were narrowed. How sick was Baby-Bird? He sped walked as to catch up with Alfred, he opened his mouth to ask, but the elder man beat him to it.

"The young master spent a few hours in his room before I went to check on him. I have my suspicions on what happened but, until Master Damian regains consciousness, I cannot say for sure..." he trailed off with a twinkle in his greying blue eyes and a slight upturn of his lips.

The two men made their way into the kitchen Alfred in the lead with Dick trailing behind, looking semi-bewildered. Dick slid himself into a barstool and followed Alfred with his murky sea-blue eyes. The unofficial patriarch busied himself with taking out a few ingredients from the fridge and pantry. Whole milk, rich dark chocolate, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. All the things to make-

"Hot chocolate," Dick breathed out as his lips twitched into a smile. It was a mystery how Alfred knew things that he ought not to, but some oddities were best left unanswered. 

Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, Dick sat back in his chair and waited. Nothing could beat the comforting warmth of Alfred's Hot Chocolate. Dick watched the older man work in a peaceful quietness that brought a sense of ease to him. If Alfred wasn't worried, neither should he.

The sound of the whisk lightly clinking against the copper pots filled the otherwise silent room, the scent of sweet cocoa wafted through the air, and if one searched, they could find a faint undercurrent of cinnamon. Dick wasn't sure when his eyes slipped shut or for how long they stayed that way, but the sensation of heat radiated within in his hand pulled him out from his dozing. As he opened his eyes, he saw that his palm was resting against a steaming mug of chocolaty nostalgia topped with fresh cream, white chocolate shavings, and a subtle dusting of cocoa powder. The sight almost made him moan, but nothing compared to the sinfully decadent flavor. Its texture was like velvet, coating his tongue in a layer of sweetness that made his taste buds sing. 

"Master Dick, why don't you inform the rest of the family that Master Damian may have found his mate earlier this morning." With how nonchalant Alfred's words were, Dick almost didn't register what he had said. 

Keyword. A lmost .

Dick choked mid-sip. He sputtered and hacked as the hot chocolate slipped down the wrong pipe. "I'm sorry, what?" He managed to get out between fits of coughing "what do you mean Baby-bird may have met his mate?"

Alfred barely looked up from his cleaning as he hummed in acknowledgment. Dick was frozen in shock at the news that his youngest brother, the demon spawn himself may have found his mate. It was like his spirt left his body from the sheer unbelievably of this, he could see himself slip out of his chair and fall onto the floor, but he couldn't do anything to stop it.