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"Marinette!"

The call of her name brings Marinette out of her daydreaming to look at Mme. Bustier, who looked at her with a concerned expression. "Marinette, maybe you do have hearing issues, so it might be better for you to move to the front." She with a gentle smile. Marinette starts to internally panic. She didn't want to leave Adrien's side! And she especially didn't want to sit next to Lila!

"N-NO!" Hurriedly, the dark-haired girl says, and after calming herself down, continues talking "I mean, there's no need! I just spaced out for a second. My hearing is perfectly fine!" She finishes with a hopefully reassuring smile. The teacher seems satisfied with her answer and continues rollcall with a smile. The girl notices the glare Lila is sending her but ignores it in favor of talking to Adrien. She was finally being able to talk to him without stuttering too much and now they shared a seat! It was the perfect opportunity to talk and get to know each other better!

"So Adrien!" She starts nervously while looking at her crush "Have you talked to Nino after the whole Chameleon mess? I heard the Akuma said some pretty awful things to him while pretending to be you." Adrien looks surprised at the question and then his face falls, making Marinette want to hit herself because, of course she would pick a terrible subject to talk to him.

"Well, I did and he knows it was all the Akuma, but we barely had time to talk and I'm afraid he might still be upset. I know him and I are not desk buddies anymore and all but..." The boy looks at his best friend with a longing look and then redirects his gaze toward Marinette. "But at least now I can sit with a friend again!" He says smiling and officially melting Marinette's heart. "I was a bit nervous about sitting with Lila all year since she seems quite adamant in touching me all the time, not to mention the lying... So thanks for letting me sit here!" And there it is, Adrien just murdered her with his cuteness and he doesn't even know it. Rest in Peace Marinette Dupain-Cheng. 

"I-I-It was n-no p-problem really!" She says and inwardly curses herself for stuttering again. "I'm just glad that I don't have to sit alone anymore. Especially if you're the one sitting with me!" Adrien smiles and it hits her what she just said. "I MEAN ESPECIALLY IF IT'S A FRIEND! B-because that's what we are, friends! Like the rest of the class! N-not that I don't like you more than them but I MEAN... UGH!" She buries her head in her hands and groans. Great! It's only day one and she already embarrassed herself. This is a disaster. Marinette peaks her head out when she hears Adrien snickering.

"Hey, It's ok!" He says while putting an arm around her and pulling her closer to him, causing the girl to blush. He then proceeds to cup her ear and whisper in her ear "I actually consider you one of my best friends too, so I definitely like you more than most people here! I mean, everyone is cool, but you are amazing Marinette!" Marinette gets even redder and can't decide between kissing the boy for being so nice or hitting him for his obliviousness. She settles for laughing awkwardly.

"Marinette, Adrien, is there something you'd like to share with the class?" Mme. Bustier asks and it's only then that both realize that class had already started a while ago. They also notice their position, with Adrien having an arm around Marinette, who in turn was leaning on him. Both pull apart rapidly while blushing and grab their materials.

"Sorry, Madame!" Both say in unison, feeling the gaze of their classmates on them. Bustier raises one eyebrow at them but decides to let it go, seeing how the two genuinely seemed to be embarrassed. She doesn't notice how Lila glares at the pair, specifically at Marinette.


"Talk to you later! Bye!" Marinette tells Adrien, whom she left school with, after turning around to go home. She feels herself bump into someone and isn't really surprised to see Lila standing in her way with her arms crossed and a glare in place. "Oh, Lila! Sorry! I wasn't looking where I was going!" She says, despite knowing full well that Lila put herself there on purpose.

"I see you made your decision Marinette..." The liar says with a smirk, leaning forward to whisper in Marinette's ear "From now on, you and I are at war. You will lose your friends and wind up all alone. And Adrien? Don't get used to it, because he will soon be mine." She finishes and looks at Marinette triumphantly, but the look soon vanishes from her face when Marinette gives her a smile of her own.

"We'll see about that Lila, we'll see." Marinette says while brushing her off and walking past her, leaving a shocked and angry Lila behind, whom already started to plan the dark-haired girl's downfall.

But what Lila didn't know, was that Marinette herself was already forming a plan of her own. And she always finds a solution.


 

"Marinette, what did you want to talk about?" Adrien says while munching on a croissant. He'd found it weird that right after school, where they spend nearly the whole time together, she'd asked him to meet with her at the park. "Not that I mind hanging out with you, and these baked goods are amazing, but you seemed worried with something." The blond looks at her worriedly.

"Adrien, I know you think we should just let Lila get away with her lies but... She basically threatened me twice already and I won't just stand there while she says that she'll turn all my friends against me. I already let Chloé walk all over me before, I'm not letting myself get bullied again, much less by a liar like her." Marinette says with a determined look, and for a moment, Adrien is reminded of Ladybug. "But I know you think we'll just upset her, so you don't have to help me. I'm just asking you to not judge me, and to not let yourself be manipulated by her." She looks at him and he realizes that, behind all her determination, she's also scared. "I... I couldn't stand if she turned you against me as well..." Biting her lip, Marinette looks down and Adrien feels anger rising in him because Lila had threatened his friend. 

"No." He says and Marinette looks at him, the fear not hidden anymore. "I won't let Lila manipulate me. But I also won't let her hurt one of my best friends. I said to leave her alone because her lies weren't hurting anyone. But now she plans on bullying you and I won't allow it!" He says while grabbing Marinette's hand. "So, what's the plan?"

"What?" the girl says while looking a bit dazed. She didn't expect Adrien to jump to her defense like that, but it was a welcome surprise.

"The plan to uncover Lila's lies. I'm helping you, Marinette." He says and slowly, a smile forms in her face, the determined look coming back full force.

"And so am I"

The pair jumps in surprise and looks in the direction where the voice came, only to find the last person they ever expected to offer their help.

Chloe Bourgeois.

 

 

Chapter Text

"Chloé! Did you follow me here? And you were eavesdropping too! Not cool!" Adrien says with a frown, looking disapprovingly at his oldest friend, while Marinette simply stared at the blonde girl in shock, still not fully processing the whole situation.

"Oh please Adrikins, don't start. I'm in a terrible mood today already. But to answer your questions, yes I was listening in but I did not follow you. In fact, I was on my way to Marinette's place so I could talk to her when I saw you two sitting here." At that, both Adrien and Marinette give her a disbelieving look. "What?! It's true! Marinette seems to be the only one who doesn't buy into that liar's bullshit.  So..." She says nervously and Marinette would even say she looked a bit bashful. "I propose a truce. At least until we can expose Lie-la. What do you say, Dupain-Cheng?" She says while extending a hand. 

Marinette can feel a smirk forming in her face. Normally, she would assume Chloé was playing another trick on her, but lately, she really had been trying to be less of a brat. Not to mention that, differently from Lila, Chloé was an awful liar. And it's as that saying goes right? The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

"I say we have a deal Bourgeois" Marinette answers while shaking Chloé's hand. Chloé gives her a smirk while Adrien watches the two with a smile, happy to see the two girls getting along, even if the situation isn't ideal, and also secretly admitting he was a bit scared of what those two could do now that they had teamed up. "So, maybe we should go to my place... I mean, if Chloé was eavesdropping on us, who knows who else might listen to our plans." The dark haired girl suggests and is met with no objections.

The three of them walk back to the bakery in silence and arrive there soon enough. "Marinette, you're back! Did Adrien like the croissants? Last time- Oh, we have visitors, I see." Sabine Cheng looked at the trio in front of her. When her eyes land on Chloé, she raises an eyebrow, knowing well enough how the Mayor's daughter had bullied her child, but after glancing at Marinette and seeing the how calm the girl was, she decides to leave the questions for later. "You three can go up to our living room. Tom and I will check on you later!" She says and notices the grateful look Marinette sends her for not suggesting her bedroom, after all, she hadn't had the time to take down the Adrien pictures, and while the boy might be aware of them now, it would still be embarrassing. Sabine winks at her daughter and leaves the trio be.

Marinette notices how Adrien and Chloé take in her home and, while at first sight it might seem like they are judging it, the dark-haired girl notices there is longing in their eyes, and she can’t really blame them for it, after all, they've never had an actual home. Yes, they lived in big luxurious places and had everything money could buy, but they didn't have the love and warmth of a home and a family like she did. Mayor Bourgeois is always busy and, despite the way he spoiled Chloé, he didn't give her the fatherly attention she needed. And Audrey and Gabriel were pretty self-explanatory in Marinette's opinion. "So... You guys wanna sit over there on the couch?" She says, interrupting Adrien and Chloé’s little inspection.

When the three students are all comfortable, Chloé breaks the silence. "So... Any ideas?" 

"Well, I think we would need to debunk more than one lie at once since it might be more impactful. I could definitely get Penny to expose the whole Jagged Stone kitten lie..." Marinette starts and at the confused looks she gets, explains. "Penny is Jagged's assistant. I kept in contact with both of them after I made his album cover and glasses. They've mentioned commissioning me again soon so..." 

"Woah! You are actually friends with Jagged Stone! That's so cool!" Adrien exclaims with a big grin. "Could you get me an autograph?" He says and Marinette could see literal stars in his eyes. Why does he have to be so damn cute?

"It's so annoying that you don't even have to lie about knowing celebrities because you actually do... Ugh, and you don't even brag about it!" Chloé says with a disgusted tone but Marinette smiles, recognizing the backhanded compliment. "Anyway, that's a good start. I could also get my Daddy to talk to Prince Ali since he stayed at my hotel when he was here. The Prince is not my biggest fan but I'm sure he'll give in when he finds out Rose is also being manipulated. The two of them are still friends, can you believe it?" The blonde says with a snort.

"That's great! Maybe we could get Ladybug in it as well!" Adrien says and Marinette feels herself stiffen. "I mean, Ladybug seemed pretty bothered with Lila's lies when she called her out! She'd be pretty sad to see that Lila hasn't learned a thing and could say that she's not, in fact, Lila's best friend." He says and listens to Marinette snort and mutter something to herself, but doesn't pry.

"I could talk to Ladybug. I mean, I am a superhero too so it would be logical for me to contact her. Besides, if anyone's gonna become Ladybug's BFF it's me!" Chloé says angrily and Marinette bites her lip because she's not sure if involving her alter-ego is the best idea. "But maybe we should wait before we strike..."

"What?!" Marinette says surprised since she sure as hell didn't want to wait, and she never would have pegged Chloé as the patient type. "Why?"

"Well, for starters, it might be better to see what's her strategy. Going against an unknown enemy is always a bad idea. Also, it would be more humiliating for her if we waited. Now, she could excuse her lies as her trying to fit in, but later, when she starts to use her lies to mess up your reputation, she'll have no excuses. Besides, it will expose the snakes in our class as well." Marinette and Adrien look confused at the last statement, so the blonde girl elaborates. "It's pretty weird that people who call themselves Marinette's friends were so quick to dismiss and shun her away. Maybe, that's because they are not such good friends after all. I mean, I overheard your conversation with Cesaire and her boyfriend today and had to laugh. She asks if you have proof that Lila is lying but doesn't check what Lila is saying herself? Hypocrite much? And she calls herself a journalist!" Chloé ends with a snort.

Marinette wanted to jump in Alyas defense but... Chloé had a point. And her so-called best friend just brushed off all of her worries as jealousy even though a few weeks prior Marinette had put her jealousy aside to help Adrien in his date with Kagami! And the fact that Alya, who wanted to be a journalist, didn't even fact check Lila's stories before believing them, or even posting them on the Ladyblog, showed that she needed a wake-up call. And maybe, Marinette did too.

Because even after she stood up for them, cheered them up and bent over backwards to help them out, many times relinquishing her own needs, all of her classmates had turned on her on the word of a girl they barely knew. Hell, were they even her friends? Or were they just using her when they required only to abandon her when she needed them the most?

Adrien seemed to notice Marinette's line of thought, after all, she was really expressive, and felt anger rising in his chest again because he couldn't even say that she was wrong in thinking that since she really wasn't. He'd never noticed before, but now that he thought of it, Marinette was always the one who had to apologize, even when she wasn't in the wrong. She never got an apology herself, and rarely even got a thank you after doing everything possible to help everyone. Adrien promised to himself that he'd never take Marinette for granted ever again.

"You're right... Maybe we could also get some proof that she's the one who's being mean to me. After all, Alya seems pretty set on getting receipts..." Marinette says bitterly but blushes when she feels Adrien hugging her. 

"Don't worry Marinette, Chloé and I will help you out. And we'll also be your friends! Right Chloé?" The boy says while sending a warning look in his friend's direction, who in turn rolls her eyes and lets out a sigh.

"I guess we can be friends..." She says like the mere idea disgusts her. "But you, Dupain-Cheng, will stop letting people walk all over you, you hear me? Start calling people out on their bullshit! Stop forgiving and forgetting everything! Stand up for yourself! Nothing is more pathetic than a pushover, and I am NOT befriending someone pathetic that won't even serve me. So you better start growing a backbone!" Chloé says while pointing a finger at her, before letting out a smug smirk. "And of course, I am helping you out, after all, that's what heroes do!" 

Adrien shakes his head fondly but recognizes that this is Chloé's weird way of showing she cares and trying to help. Lord knows he got talks like that from her before, so he can only give Marinette a sympathetic shoulder squeeze.

Marinette, on the other hand, seems shocked and takes a few seconds to gather herself, but when she does, she returns Chloé's smile "Sure thing, Queen Bee. I have a feeling we'll make a good team." She says while smirking, with a knowing glint in her eyes.

"Kids! Are you staying for dinner?" Tom Dupain asks after entering the room with a big smile, being shortly followed by his wife. "Sabine is making her famous chicken casserole!"

"So, what do you say, friends?" Marinettes says smiling deviously "Will you stay for dinner?"

Adrien and Chloe both nod while mimicking the baker's daughter smile.

Tom and Sabine, knowing Marinette's scheming expression, can only send their condolences to whoever was the trio's target.

Chapter Text

Adrien arrived at school a bit earlier than usual. Last night his father had gotten very angry since he'd stayed out until late and didn't even warn Nathalie, but seemed a bit less nervous when he explained he was at Marinette's. Gabriel seemed to actually like his friend and had been impressed with her designing skills. Nevertheless, the boy decided to wake up and go to school earlier to try to please his father. When he got to the school gates, he greeted Nino as usual and was happy to see his friend treating him normally. He'd been scared that what Chameleon had said to Nino while pretending to be him would somehow make his friend upset with him, but it seemed like his fears were unfounded after all. 

Chloé came to greet him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek as usual, but recently Adrien had noticed that the act had started to have a more platonic feeling to it and felt glad that maybe his oldest friend was finally giving up on pursuing him, since his heart was already taken by his lady. Adrien sighed dreamily at the thought of his partner. Just the thought of her already made his day so much better. And he had patrol to look forward to tonight! Maybe tonight would finally be the day his lady would fall for him, and then they could go to a secluded island, eat nothing but fruit and have a hamster called-"

"Dude are you still in there?" Nino asked, bringing Adrien out of his daydream and laughing at the young model's face "You spaced out right there man?" He said and Adrien answered with a sheepish green. "C'mon, we should get going, class will start soon enough and our first class is with Mme. Mendeleiev, and trust me dude, you do not want to piss her off this early in the morning. And with that, the two boys went together to the classroom, each taking their new seats. Just when Adrien sat down, he heard Marinette's voice and was surprised to see her coming inside with a smiling Chloé. He knew the two had started a friendship yesterday, but didn't expect to see that. And he wasn't the only one.

The entire class stared at Marinette and Chloé in disbelief as the two girls waved at each other and separated to go to their seats. Chloé, noticing Adrien's stare, just gave him a wink. He then turned his eyes to Marinette, who had just sat down and noticed his confusion. "What?" She says with a smile.

"I mean, I knew you and Chloé had made up but this is quite the turn from your past relationship, wouldn't you say so?" He says smiling and getting a cute laugh from his friend. 

"Well, we guessed we might already start working together and building our relationship since it will make things easier to take down ou common enemy. Also, after you and her left, the two of us kept texting and found out we actually have a lot in common! It's still really weird being all buddy-buddy with a girl who made the biggest part of my school life hell but hey, she's trying to be better so I might as well give it a shot!" She said with a smile and Adrien couldn't help but return it. This is one of the reasons why he likes Marinette so much. Her kindness has no limits. That is also why he found it important to take Lila down now, because if even Marinette, who was literally an angel, didn't think she could change, then it had to be serious. Besides, Ladybug had given Lila two chances already and she'd blown them over because she couldn't admit her own mistakes and try to change them.

"Hey Adrien!" And speak of the devil, Lila suddenly appeared, sitting at the edge of his table and looking at him with what she probably thought was a sultry look, but it actually looked more predatory than anything. "I thought you said you'd help me catch up on the schoolwork I lost while traveling. Did you not mean it?" She said with a sad pout and he had to admit it looked pretty convincing and that he'd probably have fallen for it if Marinette hadn't told him how Lila truly was. He gave her his model smile, not being able to bring himself to smile genuinely at the liar. But he also couldn't let her know he was helping Marinette.

"I'm sorry Lila, but I don't think I'm the best option to help you. You seemed to be very... Distracted, when I sat with you. Maybe it would be better to ask someone else. Max is the best student in our class, I'm sure he'd be happy to help you. He would also have more time since his schedule is not nearly as full as mine. I hope you won't be mad at me, but I'm sure you understand. You're a smart girl after all, and I know you would hate to fall behind even more because you can't concentrate, Right?" He finishes and has to fight of the laugh that's bubbling in his chest at the conflicted look in Lila's face. On one hand, he didn't fall for her charms but on the other, he had complimented her. He noticed the small smirk Marinette was concealing and bit his lip to not mimic the expression.

"Oh, that's fine then... But I hope this doesn't mean we won't have time to hang out! I was really hoping that we could get to know each other better, you know?" She says while leaning into his personal space with that predatory smile and Adrien had to fight off the uncomfortable feeling that it gave him, simply flashing her another one of his model smiles.

"Of course Lila! You seem like a really nice girl and I'd love to be your friend." The words made him cringe but he hoped that the word friend would make her take a hint. But he also knew it was too much to hope such a thing would happen. "Now you should go back to your seat though. Class is about to start and Mme. Mendeleiev is always in a bad mood this early in the morning, so we wouldn't want to piss her off right?" He says hoping that the girl will leave and go to her own seat. Or to the other side of the world, really.

"That's probably for the best! But let's talk more during lunch! Bye Adrien!" She says leaning even more into his space and giving him a peck on the cheek. He noticed how Marinette stiffened beside him and had to fight off the goosebumps caused by Lila's kiss. If he wasn't uncomfortable before, he sure as hell was now.

After Lila went back and sat at her own seat, he felt Marinette nudging him with a concerned look and mouthing "Are you okay?" at him. He gave her a fond smile and nodded. "Now that she's gone, it's all good.". The girl gave him a dubious look but decided to leave it alone for now in favor of paying attention to class. He wasn't joking when he said it was better to not piss off Mme. Mendeleiev.


Class had passed without a hitch and Adrien had even managed to avoid Lila at lunch with the excuse that he was expected at home, so he was hoping that fencing class would go just as well. But, having the black cat miraculous, his good luck had to run out at some point.

"Okay Adrien, what's up with you today? Spill." Kagami said to him at the locker room. He was about to tell her nothing was up when she interrupted him. "You were distracted and it was easier than usual to beat you. And I'll know if you're lying so don't even try it." She says with a glare and Adrien feels shivers going down his spine. Kagami could be very scary when she wanted to be. Especially when her fencing foil was sitting just a couple of feet away from them. "So?" She demands and Adrien sighs in defeat.

"So, there's this girl in my class, Lila, and she's been creating these outlandish lies that somehow, everyone believes. With the exception of me, Marinette and Chloé. But the Marinette tried to exposed and she sorta turned all of our classmates on her. And then proceeded to threaten her twice already, saying she'll make all of her friends hate her and stuff... So Chloé and I are kinda helping Marinette but... It's just a difficult situation I guess... And quite a confusing one when you put it like that too huh... " He says with a sigh.

"Wait, why are you even helping Marinette after she rejected you?" Kagami asks and Adrien gives her a confused look. “I mean, I get that you are a nice guy and all but I after someone got me down like she did to you...”

"What?! No! Marinette and I are just friends! She never- Where did you even get that idea?" Adrien asks bewildered.

"So she wasn't the girl who rejected you?" Adrien shook his head and Kagami bit her lip. "Well... I guess I misjudged her then... I wouldn't say I was mean, per se, but I was definitely cold towards her... Great, nowfeel bad!" The girl says while slumping her shoulders "Maybe I should apologize I guess..."

"Marinette forgave Chloé who's bullied her for years, I'm sure she probably doesn't even think badly of you for it. Trust me, she's the kindest person I've ever met!" He says with a fond smile and Kagami raises an eyebrow at him. 

"Are you sure she's just a friend? Because when you talk like that you sound really fond of her" She says smirking at Adrien who starts to splutter and blush. "I'm just teasing you Agreste, calm down." 

"A-Ah... Funny..." Adrien says and laughs awkwardly. "Besides, helping Marinette kinda helps me too, since Lila keeps flirting with me, touching me and entering my personal space in general, which makes me very uncomfortable. And she also doesn't seem like the kind of girl who takes no for an answer..." At that, Kagami frowns, not liking the way Adrien seems uncomfortable to even talk about this girl.

"Well, that just won't do then... So what's the plan?" She asks, with a tenacious look in her eyes.

"What plan?" He asks puzzled and Kagami looks at him like he just said something incredibly dumb. Which, to be fair, is how she looks at pretty much everyone most of the time.

"The plan to take down this Lila girl of course. What else?" She answers and Adrien looks bewildered.

"Wait but... You're going to help us? Why?" He raises his eyebrow while looking at her suspiciously.

"For three reasons. One, I kinda want to get to know Marinette, since you say she's so great. Second, I hate liars and bullies more than anything, so taking one down will be very satisfying. Third, I can't have the only fencing partner who poses an actual challenge being distracted. It makes things boring." Kagami explains smirking. "Plus, you're my friend Agreste, so if someone messes with you, they mess with me." She adds while winking at him.

Adrien smiles at Kagami happily and nudges her with his shoulder. "So, friend..." He says punctuating the word, making the girl groan. "Lets set up a date and a place. I'll talk to Chloé and Marinette so we can all meet and talk about the plan. You can also get to know both of them better and all. So you can make new friends.".

"Ugh, you're not letting this go, are you?" She says and sighs in defeat at Adrien's shit-eating grin. "Fine, let's all meet up later. I'll text you with the place and time. Don't make me regret this."

She says, leaving the locker room and a very satisfied looking Adrien to smirk at the new ally acquired. He couldn't wait to tell Marinette about it.

 

Chapter Text

Marinette could feel her classmates' glares on her back as she made her way out of school alone since Adrien had already gone to the locker rooms to get ready for his fencing classes. She guessed Lila probably already started spreading her lies and following her promise of turning her friends against her. It hurt a lot how easily she had managed to do so. It's only been two days since Lila arrived but most of her friends were already taking her side instead of Marinette's. So much for friendship, the girl thought while putting on a mask of indifference. Befriending Chloé probably didn't help her case, but then again, the mayor's daughter seemed to be the only one on her side. Besides Adrien of course.

The way Lila had thrown herself all over Adrien had nearly made her lose her patience and, contrary to what Alya might think, it had nothing to do with jealousy. The thing is, Marinette knows Adrien has absolutely no interest in Lila, but that's what made her actions so infuriating. She kept touching him and flirting with him while it clearly made him uncomfortable. Hell, even Chloé could take a hint on when to stop! And there is also the fact that she didn't actually seem all that interested in Adrien anymore, at least not romantically, which made her hugs and kisses a lot less awkward to the boy. 

"Marinette, wait!" She stops when she hears Alya's voice calling out to her and feels a smile threatening to come out. Maybe Alya is still with her. Her hopes are soon crushed when she sees the angry expression in her so-called best friend's face. "What is wrong with you girl? First, you start hating on Lila for no reason, then you befriend Chloé of all people, and now you're bullying Lila?! I thought you were better than this! I know you are jealous but this is too much!" She says while shaking her head in disapproval and Marinette has to resist the urge to scream because wasn't she the one scolding me about not having proof that Lila lied, but now she is believing that she had bullied the new girl with absolutely no evidence! 

"Are you kidding me right now Alya? You really think that I'm bullying Lila? That I'd ever do something like that, especially for something so petty as jealousy? Really?" the dark-haired girl says while laughing humorlessly. "So much for being my best friend huh? If you actually think that lowly of me to believe some girl that you barely know over me then I guess you were never my friend at all. Hell Alya, I trusted you more than anyone, and all it takes for you to turn on me is some pretty Italian girl to let out a few crocodile tears and you abandon me? I thought you were better than that." She says, mimicking Alya's own words "But I'm seeing now that perhaps my judgment on friendship had been quite clouded until recently. But thank you really, for opening my eyes. I won't make the same mistake twice." Finishing off with a disgusted sneer, Marinette stares at every single one of her classmates, who were all listening to their discussion. Her eyes meet Lila's and she smiles. "And thank you, Lila, for showing me who really is my friend and who was only using me only to abandon me at my time of need. Really, you did me a solid there." The liar's eyes widen and when Marinette turns her back on them, she can hear Lila's voice, already starting to put herself as the victim, while everyone else ran to her side to comfort poor Lila. Rolling her eyes, Marinette is about to continue her way home when someone holds her arm. Looking at the person, she sees Chloé who is staring at her with sorrow in her eyes.

"Let's go to my place. You need someone to stay with you right now..." the blonde says and Marinette realizes the implication. She was at risk of being akumatized. She wasn't really worried, after all, she'd already avoided an Akuma before out of sheer will but wouldn't refuse the offer of company. Smiling gratefully at Chloé, Marinette locks arms with her and the two make their way to Le Grand Paris. And for a moment there, while locking arms with a girl who Marinette once considered enemies, she feels like everything might actually turn out ok. Because she wasn't alone. She had people to back her up. And well... I also have luck on my side she thinks while glancing at Tikki, who opened her bag to give her chosen a reassuring smile.


 

Marinette had called her parents to tell them she was going to Chloé's place. She'd already told them a little of what happened when the two had started questioning her after Chloé and Adrien had left her home yesterday, and the two were fully supporting their plans to expose Lila. They had also said that they'd stop giving free pastries to her classmates but Chloé and Adrien, and Marinette had teared up and hugged her parents so hard because, really, the two were the best.

Now though, Marinette found herself having her nails painted by a blabbering Chloé and she couldn't help but smile. Never thought I'd ever be in this position, the girl thinks but finds that she doesn't mind it at all.

"So, when do you plan on asking Adrikins out?" Chloé brings her out of her thoughts and Marinette starts blushing and stuttering and nearly falls from the sofa they are sitting. "Stay still! You'll make me mess up your nails!" the blonde says while holding the clumsy girl, stopping her from falling. 

"W-Well... I m-mean, I w-wasn't really g-gonna ask him out..." Marinette murmurs while stuttering and trying to calm herself down. "I mean, he only sees me as a friend so..." She is interrupted by a gaping Chloé who is looking at her like she said something absurd. "What?"

"Are you kidding me right now Dupain-Cheng?! That boy is completely smitten with you! I'm his oldest friend so I would know, so trust me when I say that Adrien is absolutely head over heels for you!" She says angrily and when Marinette opens her mouth to disagree, Chloé gives her a hard glare. "Don't you dare to tell me that I'm wrong! He looks at you the same way Chat Noir looks at Ladybug, and let me tell you, it's disgustingly sweet. That boy is in love. He might not have realized it yet, but he loves you." She finishes off while holding the dark-haired girl's hands. "Now stay still, I'm almost done with your nails." The blonde says and goes back to painting like she didn't just say that the boy Marinette loves reciprocates her feelings.

Marinette stays still while Chloé continues working on her nails while gaping like a fish. A part of her wanted to believe Chloé because that would mean Adrien loves her but the other part doesn't want to get her hopes up, after all, Adrien had said she was just a friend countless times and she didn't want to get expectant only to have her heart broken. Swallowing the lump in her throat, Marinette decides to change the subject. "When did you stop being into Adrien then?"

"The truth is that I've never been into him. Not really. I thought I was since I love him a lot and get possessive over him, but then I figured my love for him is just platonic and that I'm just really protective over him. I mean, can you blame me? The boy is too innocent and pure for this world! I couldn't just let some fangirl take advantage of that! He's... He's one of the only people who has always been there for me and... I just want him to be happy you know? He deserves it after all the shit his father makes him go through." Chloé finishes while glancing down at their intertwined hands, looking more vulnerable than Marinette had ever seen her. "And I'm done with your nails!" She says, putting up her walls again and it is at that moment that Marinette realizes how much emotion Chloé bottles up. But not wanting to push her luck, she decides to not probe any more for today. Baby steps, she reminds herself.

"So... Do you want to watch a movie or something" And it is just as Marinette finishes speaking that she hears her phone warn her that she has a new message. Opening it, she sees that it's from Adrien. Reading the message, her eyes widen and she shows it to Chloé, who looks just as confused.

Adrien:

After fencing Kagami cornered me and I told her everything. She wants to help.

Since it's Saturday tomorrow, let's all meet up and talk. Here's the address.

Warn Chloé and let's all meet up there during lunch. 

Marinette and Chloé look at each other questioningly because why the hell would Kagami of all people want to help them. The phone vibrates once again and Marinette grabs it to look at the new message, thinking it might be some explanation, but personally, she thinks that what she got is even better.

Adrien:

I'm looking forward to seeing you, Mari.

Feeling a blush rushing to her face, Marinette can't help but smile at her phone lovingly and ignores Chloé's knowing glance as she types back.

Marinette: 

I'm with Chloé rn. We'll be there.

I'm also looking forward to seeing you, Adrien <3

 

Chapter Text

"Tikki, what if I made it weird!?" Marinette cried out for the tenth time that evening. When she arrived home after hanging out with Chloé, the worries about her text to Adrien had started to come out. "Why did I have to send that damned heart emoji? Now he'll find out about my crush and hate me and then we'll never get together, marry, have three kids and a hamster named-"

"MARINETTE CALM DOWN!" Tikki screams, knowing it was the only way to bring the girl out of her panicked state. "Friends send each other emojis all the time! Even heart ones! There's no need to worry! And even if Adrien did find out about your crush, he'd never hate you Marinette. Didn't you see how much he cares about you already? Look at how much he's helping you with the Lila situation?" Marinette seemed to be considering her Kwami's words, so Tikki decided to continue "Adrien is a nice boy. He would never do such a thing. The worst thing he could do is to gently let you down and even then he'd still be your friend I'm sure."

Taking a deep breath to calm herself down, Marinette looked at Tikki and smiled while nodding. Her Kwami was right, as usual. Adrien wasn't the kind of guy to be mean or cruel. His kindness was one of the things she loved the most about him, after all. 

"Also, you're going to be late for patrol with Chat Noir, so I'd recommend leaving now."

"What?! Oh sh- Tikki, Spots on!"

And with that, a light spread over Marinette's room and where she once was, stood Ladybug, Heroine of Paris. "Gotta get going, don't want to leave poor Chat waiting too long." The dark-haired girl said to herself while leaving her room through her balcony. 

Jumping and swinging through the rooftops of Paris, Ladybug searched with attentive eyes a certain black cat that always seemed to be out. Spotting the unruly head of blond hair, she smiled to herself and swung until she reached her partner, who turned around with a smile, hearing his lady's arrival.

"My lady, do you come here often?" He says with his usual flirtatious tone and smirk, reaching for her hand and giving it a kiss. Ladybug bit her lip containing her upcoming blush, proceeding to push the cat-themed hero back with her finger.

Ever since Chat Noir's confession during the Glaciator episode, Ladybug found herself getting more easily flustered by her partner's antics. Tikki teased her about it, saying that she liked him and as much as she denied it, she couldn't help but feel that she was only fooling herself. 

"Now now kitty, you know the deal, business before play. But since tomorrow there are no classes, I think I can manage to stay out a little longer." She says winking at him and enjoying the way his face lights up with excitement. "Meet me in two hours, same spot as usual. Then we can talk as much as you like."

"If we were to talk as much as I want m'lady, we'd spend the rest of our lives talking. But I'll take what I can get."

"Smart move. See you later, Chaton." Ladybug says and then goes back to swinging through Paris once again, leaving her partner to go in the opposite direction.

Patrol goes by easily enough, with her only having to stop one robbery, which she did easily enough. Unfortunately, she also didn't find any clues on Hawkmoth. Sighing to herself, the spotted heroine makes her way to the top of the Eiffel Tower, readying herself to meet up with Chat Noir.

Sitting on the top of the monument and admiring the beauty of the City of Love, Ladybug doesn't notice when her partner arrives. Only when she notices someone sitting next to her that she smiles.

"So, how was patrol?" She asks and when he simply shrugs she giggles. "Same." Chat Noir smiles at her playfully. "What?" The girl asks and the smile turns into a full-on grin.

"So... You promised me a hangout." He says and she nods, smiling indulgently at him. "Tell me about your week! Nothing too specific that could give away your identity, of course." The boy says with a smirk, adding the last bit more because of her. He knows how worried she is about her secret identity, and after seeing what happened to Queen Bee during Heroes' Day, he could see why.

"It's been one hell of a weird week." Ladybug says and noticing the bitterness in her voice, he looks at her questioningly. "Well... Let's just say that these past two days I found out that the people that claimed to be my friends aren't, a girl whom I barely know but who also seemed to dislike me decided to help me and my crush and the girl who bullied me for years are the only people in my class that are my friends. All because of a new girl who has a knack for lying and hates me for calling her out and liking the same boy she does, going as far as to threaten me. Did I mention that this whole situation nearly got me akumatized too? Because it did." She says with a sneer but stops when she sees Chat's angry expression. 

"Can I cataclysm your ex-friends? Please?" He says and Ladybug lets out a startled laugh. "I'm serious! Also this new girl! And Hawkmoth. No one messes with my lady!" He says proudly, happy that he somehow made her laugh.

"As tempting as your offer is, I'll have to decline it. You know we shouldn't use our powers in civilians kitty. But thanks. I needed that." She says, smiling gently at her partner and oh, he was so gone for this girl.

"I have a friend who's going through a similar situation and I've been helping her out too so if you need anything, I'm always here for you Ladybug." He says while thinking about Marinette. He was happy that they had gotten closer these past two days, but the reason why they had gotten closer in the first place made him angry. 

"Your friend is very lucky to have you. And so am I. Thank you for always having my back, Chaton." She says smiling and hugging him. She can feel him melt in her arms and enjoys the feeling until-

"Did you... Did you just purr?" She says, pulling back from her partner with a mischievous face. He shakes his head denying it but the redness on his face tells a different story. "Oh kitty, you are so adorable! Do you want some pats too? Here kitty kitty!" She says teasingly and notices how his face goes even redder, deciding to take pity on him. "C'mon Chat, I'm just playing. Although I do love playing with your hair." She says and he takes that as an invitation to lay his head in her lap. She starts playing with it while scratching behind his cat ears and hears him purring again, settling with not teasing him more today. "So, what else do you want to talk about?"


 "MARINETTE WAKE UP!" And it's with Chloé's unholy screech that Marinette wakes up in the next day. "It's already past midday! If you don't get up, we are going to be late! C'mon you lazy ass!" The blonde teases while pulling Marinette's blanket from her. "You don't want to leave Adrikins waiting now, do you?" She adds with a smirk. That last remark has Marinette standing up and wide awake in a second.

"Oh my god, I don't know what to wear! Chloé help me!"

"Why do you think I'm even here? C'mon, let's look at what you have here." Chloé says while looking through Marinette's wardrobe. "You actually have cute clothes here, wow! Why do you always wear the same boring stuff then?"

"I just... It's what I'm used to, ok? Don't judge me!" Marinette says while pouting.

"Oh Marinette, my dear... Comfort zone is a nice place but nothing ever grows there. And that is why you are wearing this today!" The blonde says while pulling some clothing from the wardrobe with a flourish. When the dark-haired girl opens her mouth to protest, Chloé fixes her with a glare and shoves the clothes in her hands. "With this, you are sure to leave Adrikins speechless!" 

"If you're sure..."

"I am, now go brush your teeth and change!" Chloé says while pushing the other girl inside the bathroom.

After a few minutes, Marinette comes out of the bathroom using a Casual knee-length red dress with an elastic waist that contained pockets in the chest and skirt area and that she tied up with a red ribbon around her waist. The girl also wore simple black flats and a small black round purse where she could keep Tikki. She was about to pull her hair into her usual pigtails when Chloé gave her a glare. "No pigtails today! As I said, you are not staying in your comfort zone anymore! Not on my watch anyway! Now come on, we're already going to be a little late, might as well do some make-up"

Marinette gave a long-suffering sigh as she put away her hair ties, "deciding" to let her hair down for today. Sitting down in her chair, Marinette put on a little bit of foundation, not too much since she liked her freckles to show, concealer to hide her dark circles, eyeliner, mascara and blush. She was about to pick up her usual peachy gloss when she remembered Chloé's words about comfort zone, opting for a pinkish red lipstick instead. She could see the blonde smiling approvingly at her through the mirror and smiled back. Looking at herself, Marinette felt giddy. She had to admit that she looked quite pretty.

"You look good in red, Dupain-Cheng. Now let's go! I'm hungry and we are already fifteen minutes late!" She says and pulled the dark-haired girl as they came down the stairs. "Bye Mr. and Mrs. Dupain-Cheng" She cried while dragging along Marinette, who said goodbye hurriedly. The girl's parents simply eyed the whole scene with an amused smile, letting the two girls be.

Marinette and Chloé entered the car the blonde had waiting for them and after saying hello to the driver, or in Chloé's case, getting nudged to do so, they drove away to the address Adrien had sent them the previous day. 

"So Chloé... You never actually told me what made you realize you were not into Adrien..." Marinette says, breaking the silence and earning a raised eyebrow from the blonde.

"My big fat gay crush on Ladybug." She answers without hesitation, making Marinette choke on air and start coughing. "Jesus Christ Dupain-Cheng, get a grip! Why are you even surprised? It was pretty obvious!"

And Marinette was about to say it wasn't except... Except it kinda was. All the Ladybug merch in Chloé's room, how she seemed to enjoy getting saved by her and then all the longing glances she sent her way when she became Queen Bee. It all made sense and suddenly Marinette realized she was just as bad as Adrien when it came to noticing other people's crush on you. "I guess you're right..."

"I just figured I have a thing for pretty girls who can kick some serious ass. I mean, I still find boys objectively attractive but I'm only into girls." Chloé says with a shrug and smirks "I just like beautiful warrior badass women." She says just as the car parked in front of the restaurant they were all meeting. The two girls leave the car and Marinette sees two familiar faces right on. 

"Speaking of beautiful warrior badass women..." She says while approaching the two figures, Chloé by her side, "Hey Kagami! It's been a while!" She says with a smile which is surprisingly returned. 

"Hello, Marinette and I'm assuming, Chloé?" She asks and Marinette notices how Chloé nods, a slight blush on her cheeks and oh?

Oh, she was so going to tease Chloé for that later.

"And I'm assuming you're the girl from fencing that keeps kicking Adrien's butt?" The blonde says, rapidly recovering herself when she notices the mischievous look on Marinette's face. "Pleasure to meet you." She finishes smirking.

"Likewise" Kagami says while returning the smirk.

"I'm actually kinda scared of what those two will get up to," Adrien mutters to Marinette, who turns to look at him. "Hey there Mari."

MARI? DID HE JUST GIVE ME A NICKNAME?

"H-Hi Adrien! It's great seeing you!" She says and cheers for only stuttering once. Considering that he'd just gave her a nickname, Marinette would consider that a victory.

"Wow... Uhm Mari... You look great!" The boy says, finally noticing her different look and Oh my god is Adrien blushing?

"Ah, this... Well, Chloé said I needed to get out of my comfort zone more so... Yeah... Thanks..." She says while rubbing her arm and smiling shyly at her crush.

"Now that you lovebirds said hello, can I get a hug now, Adrikins?" Chloé says and smirks when the two start stammering excuses. "Just teasing." She pulls her childhood friend into a hug.

Kagami watched everything with an amused glint in her eyes. "Let's go inside? You guys are lucky my parents are friends with the owner, or else he wouldn't have kept our reservation because of your lateness." Marinette looked bashfull while Chloé simply shrugged.

The four teenagers go inside and are soon taken to their table. Marinette notices that the place seems nice but not too expensive and is glad since she is very much aware that she's the only one in their group that's not filthy rich. 

After sitting down, a waiter comes in and asks what they want to drink. Kagami asks for a grape juice, Adrien and Marinette ask for an orange one for each and Chloé asks for a diet soda. He also brings four menus.

"Wow, everything looks so good, I don't know what to pick!" Marinette says while scanning the menu.

"I recommend the garlic and butter shrimp pasta. It's simple but quite delicious. I myself am asking the shiitake mushrooms and black rice risotto, but the pasta is very good.

"I'm asking for the entrecote with fries and the house's special sauce. I always order it when I come here!" Adrien says with a smile, putting his menu down.

"I guess I'm going with the pasta then. I do love shrimp." Marinette says smiling at both Kagami and Adrien. Thank you for the suggestions!"

"I'm asking for the bourbon pecan chicken" Chloé says and then calls a waiter to order.

After ordering their dishes and getting their drinks, the four teens look at each other, silently observing one another. Kagami is the one to break the silence. 

"Before we start planning and stuff, I wanted to apologize to you, Marinette. I was... Not exactly rude, but quite cold towards you because I made some wrong assumptions, and for that I am sorry. Adrien already explained the situation for me and I would also like to become not only your ally but also your friend." The girl says while looking at Marinette in the eye. "I'm sorry for the way I behaved and I hope you'll forgive me."

"What? I mean, there's nothing to apologize. I did get the feeling you didn't like me but you honestly didn't do anything bad. In fact, you gave me pretty solid advice." Marinette says while smiling. "But for what is worth, I forgive you." She finishes off, knowing Kagami wasn't going to back down and extends her hand.

Kagami holds her hand and shakes it, smiling slightly at the other dark-haired girl. The smile soon turns into a full-on smirk when both let go and settle down.

"So... About exposing this Lila girl..." Kagami says and soon, the other three all smirk.

Lila has no idea of what she unleashed upon herself.

 

Chapter Text

Lunch, Marinette found, could be quite an enlightening experience when you put together four extremely different people with the same goal. She had discovered in one afternoon that Kagami, despite her icy exterior, cared a lot for her friends, that Chloé, even with her bratty attitude, could take things very seriously, and also that Adrien, who was the embodiment of sunshine, could also be quite devious. Also, Chloé and Kagami were both still very competitive, even when trying to make friends. How about that, huh? 

Currently, the two girls were fighting over who would pay for Marinette's dish, despite the dark-haired girl's protests. "I misjudged her and was unfairly cold and bitter towards Marinette! Let me make up for it!" Kagami said while pulling on the bill from one side. 

"You think that's bad? I've made her school life literal hell for years! If anyone needs to make up for anything it's me!" Chloé says, pulling on the other side of the bill, in which she had an iron grip on. People were looking at the two bickering girls with confused looks and Marinette couldn't help but feel the second-hand embarrassment. 

"Uhm, excuse me?" The waiter said, scared of the two girls who glared at him. "S-Sorry to interrupt, but the gentleman already footed the entire bill, including both of yours and the other mademoiselle's." The poor guy proceeded to point at Adrien, who became the new target of the girls' glares.

"Hey, it was the gentlemanly thing to do! Besides, Marinette was my friend first so I get to call dibs on paying her lunch!" He says smirking, oblivious to the internal battle Marinette was going through because on one hand, he had only referred to her as a friend, but on the other Adrien had bought her lunch!

Chloé and Kagami stare at each other and huff in resignement. "This isn't over, Tsurugi!" the blonde says, earning her a smirk from the fencer.

"Not even by a long shot, Bourgeois."

"Can we go now, guys? I think we've already disrupted this restaurant's peace and quiet for far too long" Marinette says, while sending the waiter an apologetic look. "Plus, we can go to André's ice cream cart to get dessert!"

And with that, the four teenagers left the place, opting to go by foot to get their ice cream. The four fell into an easy conversation, finding common ground in talking about Paris' heroes.

"Wait, Kagami! You have a crush on Ladybug too?" Adrien says while looking at his fellow fencer with eyes blown wide.

"Well yeah! Who doesn't?" The girl says with a shrug and a smirk, but then stops. "Since when do you have a crush on her, Agreste?" 

"Uh, well, you see-" The boy blushes bright red and starts fumbling with his words, oblivious of the wide-eyed look Marinette is sending him. "It's like you said right? Who doesn't? She's brave, confident, selfless, kind, beautiful and a complete badass!" He says smiling. 

"Hear, hear!" Chloé says while pulling Kagami and Adrien closer. "Us, Ladybug-lovers must unite to defeat Hawkmoth and protect our lord and savior." She says, making both of them laugh. She then notices Marinette's bright red face and looks at her questioningly. "What about you Marinette, got a soft spot for Ladybug too?"

"Uh, not really? I mean, I really admire her and appreciate what's she did for Paris, but no crushes here!" She says, finding it extremely weird to talk having a crush on herself. "I'm more of a Chat Noir fan, personally. I feel like he doesn't get enough appreciation! Plus, he's a very sweet guy, and quite cute too!" 

"Wow, Marinette! I-I didn't know you had a crush on Chat Noir!" Adrien said, looking strangely flustered.

'What!!! Nononono! No crush! Chat is just a friend! Uhum, nothing romantic there, no way! Hehehe..." She says while flailing because there is no way she is having this conversation with Adrien.

"C'mon Marinette, we've all admitted to having crushes on Ladybug, there is no need to be ashamed of your crush on Chat Noir." Chloé says while smirking. "Plus, what is this about you two being friends? Has Paris' resident cat boy been paying you some visits?"

"W-Well, you see... There is that thing about feeding strays right?" Marinette tries but Chloé sends her an unimpressed look. "Ok... It's just that, one time him and I were both feeling down and he just happened to be passing by. So he just stopped and we bonded, I guess? Now he sometimes stops by my balcony to talk and get free pastries. But that's it! Nothing romantic! Plus, all of Paris knows he's in love with Ladybug!"

"I don't know Marinette, people can like more than one person at the same time you know? And the fact that he keeps stopping by is quite telling..." Kagami says, not noticing how Adrien suddenly seems to be getting just as red as Marinette. 

"Oh! There is André!" Adrien says, changing the subject and earning a grateful look from Marinette. "Come on! Let's get something!"

"Hello there kids! I see you all seem to want a sweet treat!" André says smiling. "Line up, I'll get your perfect ice cream!" Marinette goes first. "Ah, hello again miss! It seems you have changed your mind about love, no?" He says, earning a giggle from the girl. "Well, for you it's peach pink like his lips, and mint like his eyes!" He says and Marinette thanks him, blushing slightly while looking at her ice cream and then at Adrien, who comes next. "Ah, young boy, you seem to already know what you want right?" Adrien's eyes shine as André prepares his ice cream. "Strawberry with black chocolate chips, blackberry for her hair, blueberry for her azure eyes! Here you go!" Adrien smiles at his order, missing the knowing looks Chloé and Kagami give him, or the blush on Marinette's face. "Ah, Miss Bourgeois! I wondered when you would come here" He says and the blonde smirks. "Caramel for her eyes, strawberry for her lips and blackberry for her hair!" He says, surprising the girl who takes her ice cream without saying anything. "And last but not least you, my dear! I know just the thing!" He says while Kagami eyes him skeptically. "Banana for her blonde hair and blue moon for her eyes!" He says, giving the japanese girl her cone, while she thanks him.

All four kids pay the man and walk away, enjoying their ice cream silently while talking and joking around, and Marinette finds that, despite the circumstances that brought them all together, she was quite happy having those three as friends.


 

The weekend passed in a blur and soon, Marinette was getting up again to go to school, for once not being late. Deciding to take advantage of this extra time, the girl decided to take Chloé's advice again and get a bit more creative with her looks, but not too much. After looking at her closet for a while, she picks a white shirt with pink flowers print, a black pinafore skirt, short black boots, a piano inspired bag, and a black bracelet. As for hair, she decides to make a bun, since it had been a while she's worn one. Make up wise, she just goes for her usual, after all, she's only going to school after all. Looking at herself in the mirror, Marinette feels proud and happy. She felt confident in this look and she would get to display her designs! Mentally thanking Chloé again for the morale boost, she makes her way downstairs. 

"Well, aren't you looking radiant today sweetheart!" Tom Dupain says while looking at his daughter. "Here's your breakfast!" He says while putting some cookies and croissants in front of her after she sits down. 

"Thanks, Papa! You're the best" She says, sneaking a few cookies in her bag for Tikki, who sends her a grateful look. "Where's Maman?" Marinette asks while eating a croissant herself. 

"Oh! She had to go grab some things for the bakery, she asked me to give you a kiss on her behalf" The large man says smiling fondly while kissing his daughter's head. "Now finish up here so you can get to school on time for once!" He says laughing at the pout in the girl's face.

After finishing her breakfast and kissing her dad goodbye, Marinette leaves for school, feeling surprisingly light despite knowing how most of her classmates see her now. She had Chloé and Adrien to back her up in class, and Kagami was only a phone call away. Smiling to herself as she arrived in Collège Françoise Dupont. She could feel some eyes on her as she made her way to class, but paid them no mind. Maybe it was because of her new look? Maybe it was because of some lie Lila came up with? Marinette didn't care.

Lila wants to go to war with her? Fine, but she better be ready to face the wrath of her friends. Plus, Ladybug's beaten Lila quite a few times already, she could do it again easily enough. Marinette smirked and strode into the classroom with her head held high. She was proud, she was confident, and most importantly, she had friends who had her back.

 

Chapter Text

Marinette ignores how all eyes suddenly turn to her when she enters the classroom, instead only waving Chloé hello and then going straight to her seat in the back beside Adrien, who gives her a big smile as she sits down. Taking a deep breath to calm herself out, she smiles at him in return and, for once, it doesn't seem awkward or nervous.

"Hey Adrien, my dad packed too many croissants for me this morning, do you want some?" She says enjoying how his eyes brighten at the mention of food. After the Heroes Day picknick, she had learned just how much he loved her parents' food, and it's as that saying goes right? The easiest way to a man's heart is his stomach.

"Oh thank you, Mari! My dad is making me go on a protein only diet so I'll take any carbs that you'll give me!" He says while munching on a croissant.

"But why? You are already quite skinny, and you do a lot of physical exercise!" She asks, worried about her friend.

"Who knows what goes on inside my father's head?" Adrien answers with a shrug, making Marinette frown. Gabriel Agreste might be an amazing fashion designer but he is a terrible father. 

"Well, no need to worry then. I'll make sure to always pack some extra baked goods for you! There is no way I'm letting your dad stop me from giving you some treats!" She says while bumping shoulders with him, receiving a grateful smile in return, making her heart melt. Oh lord, I love this boy so much..."By the way, you look amazing today Marinette! The bun is really cute! And is the outfit one of your designs?" He says while still smiling and blushing slightly and Marinette immediately feels her face heat up.

"O-Oh Tha-Thank y-you! Y-yes, I m-made i-it!" She says, cursing herself for stuttering when she had been doing so well. Adrien, noticing her discomfort, puts a reassuring hand in her shoulder and looks at her patiently. Closing her eyes, she breathes in deeply and then exhales. When she looks up, calmer already, she finds herself staring back into Adrien's green eyes, finding only acceptance and fondness in them. They stay like this for a while, only staring at each other, and Marinette can feel herself slowly approaching him, also feeling him do the same. She isn't exactly sure what exactly they were doing, but she didn't want to stop.

"Adrien, darling!" And just like that, the moment was broken, with the two teens jumping in surprise and jumping away from each other back to a normal distance.

"H-Hey, Lila..." Adrien says, blushing slightly because of what had just happened. "How are you?" He says, controlling himself to not give away his annoyance at the Italian girl.

"Oh, definitely better now that I can talk to you!" Lila says coyly, making the boy cringe and Marinette grit her teeth in anger. "Now, I was wondering if we could hang out later today, you know, just the two of us..." She says suggestively while rubbing his arm.

"I'm sorry Lila, but I have a photoshoot today and it might take the whole day. Rain check?" He says while giving her one of his model smiles and forcing himself to not flinch away from her touch. 

"Oh... Ok, I guess... But we'll decide on a date later on!" She says looking quite disappointed. She comes close to him, her free hand pausing on his chest. "I really want to get to know you better." She says and Adrien can feel how Marinette is shaking beside him, and knows that his friend two seconds away from physically getting Lila away from him unless he does something.

"Mlle. Rossi, please go back to your seat, class is about to begin!" Mme. Bustier says, making Lila pout but back away. When she finally sits back in the front, Adrien feels himself breathe out in relief. Marinette puts a hand on his arm, but contrary to Lila's, her's is comforting and calming. He smiles at her gratefully, to which she returns. The two teens then get their materials to start class, but Marinette moved herself to seat close to Adrien, proceeding to put their knees together, reminding Adrien of her presence and keeping him calm and grounded throughout class. He can also feel his stomach flutter, his heartbeat quicken, and his cheek redden but decides to ignore it. But, with the way he can feel Plagg shaking inside his shirt, he knows that his Kwami is going to tease him for it later on.


 

Marinette and Chloé were walking out of school together. Adrien hadn't been lying when he said he had a photo shoot, so the Gorilla had come to pick him up, not before the two girls could give the boy comforting hugs. The blonde girl had been fuming all day, having seen the situation with Lila and yet not being able to do much without giving her more leverage against them. Marinette emphatized with her completely, having had to hold herself back from giving Lila a beating worth of Ladybug for harassing Adrien.

Marinette can feel some of her classmates glaring at her, no doubt because of some new lie Lila made up, but the dark-haired girl ignored them. She had more important business to deal with right now. She had sent Jagged a text, asking if he was free to take a video call today, and he had confirmed it. When she got to the bakery, she said goodbye to Chloé before going inside.

"Hello, Marinette! You have visitors waiting for you. They are upstairs dear" Her mom says while hugging her. Marinette then kisses her dad's cheek and goes up, curious to see who was it and nearly faceplanting when she sees Jagged Stone himself standing in her living room, next to Penny, his assistant.

"J-Jagged! What are you doing here?! Y-you didn't have to come all the way here! I was just going to call you!" She says while flaying her arms.

"Ah, Marinette! My favorite little designer! So good to see you!" The rockstar says while hugging her. "I know you said you would call, but you never ask for help, so I guessed it was something serious! And I would do anything for my honorary niece!" He says, leaving a baffled Marinette staring at him because holy shit THE Jagged Stone considers her his honorary niece!

"We were worried about you Marinette! Plus, Jagged had already been bugging me to talk to you about making him some new outfits, so you're not making us go out of our way or anything, dear." Penny says while putting a comforting hand on the girl's shoulder, knowing that Marinette must have been starting to feel guilty for making them come all the way here. 

"O-Oh ok then! I-I would love to do more outfits, I even have some ideas that I sketched while listening to Jagged's last album! I can show it to you guys if you want!" The girl says excitedly, eager to please her favorite singer.

"I would love to! But we can do that later. Right now, I want to know what is it that you need my help. What happened, Marinette?" Jagged says, looking serious for once and approaching her.

Marinette sits on the middle of the sofa, with Jagged on one side of her and Penny on the other. And then, she tells them everything. Lila's lies and threats, her so-called friends' reactions, her truce and newfound friendship with Chloé and Kagami, Adrien's support. Only leaving out the Ladybug-related parts, of course. By the end of it, Jagged had a scowl on his face and his hands were clenched into fists, his knuckles going white. Even Penny seemed to be seething with anger,

"Marinette, please tell me we are going to expose this girl. How dare she hurt you! And go around lies about me at that! I would never have such a basic pet like a cat! Fang is the only one for me! Plus, I would never write a song about her!" The rockstar says and then looks at Penny. "Penny, please blacklist Lila Rossi from all events we host! Including shows!" 

"Way ahead of you Jagged. Already have our lawyers working on a case of defamation. It could seriously hurt your image if it got around that you're writing songs about minors whom you have no known connection to. The last thing we need is for people to go around saying you are a pedophile because some attention-seeking egocentric brat is going around saying you wrote her a song." Penny says while furiously tapping on her phone. "Would you like for me make a case against her for you too, Marinette?" The woman asks, finally taking her eyes off her phone to look at the now stunned girl.

"T-There is no need Penny! Just exposing her is already enough for me!" 

"Well, if you ever change your mind, come to me and I'll take care of everything. Jagged is not the only one who cares about you." Penny says with a smile, putting her phone down and then angling her body more towards Marinette. "So, I'm guessing you and your friends already have a plan to expose the liar... Care to fill us in?" she says, smirking devilishly. Jagged mirrors her expression, also turning to Marinette, who looks from one to the other and then smiles.

"With pleasure." She answers, her eyes gleaming with both mischief and happiness.


 

After explaining the plan to both Jagged and Penny, Marinette brought down her sketchbook and started to show them some of her ideas. Jagged eagerly gave her more suggestions and pointed out his favorites, while Penny sometimes gave her own ideas and stopped Jagged from asking anything too absurd. The afternoon passed by quickly, with the three discussing fashion and the clothes to be commissioned, so neither of them noticed when the sun went down or when Tom and Sabine closed the bakery for the day. The couple went up to find their daughter eagerly talking about fashion with her idol, who seemed just as excited, while his assistant smiled fondly, and they couldn't help the proud feeling in their chests from seeing their daughter pursuing her dream.

"Oh! Mme. Rolling, M. Stone! Good to see you are still here! Would you like to stay for dinner? I am making my famous spaghetti with meatballs, and I'm sure Marinette would love for you two to stay some more!" Tom says smiling warmly, getting a beaming grin from Marinette.

"Oh, if we're not imposing, dinner would be wonderful, M. Dupain. Plus, Jagged and I would love to get to know better the parents of such a wonderful girl like Marinette!" Penny says, making Marinette blush from the praise but earning big smiles from Tom and Sabine.

"Please, call me Sabine and him Tom. And you two are more than welcome to stay! Tom and I would also like to get to know you two better, after all, you did come all the way here when Marinette asked for your help!" Sabine says and then joins them in the living room. "Tom, warn us when dinner is ready, will you?" 

"Of course, dear! It shouldn't take too long!" And with that, the large man goes into the kitchen to prepare the food.

Marinette couldn't help but smile at her parents, glad that they didn't have any problems with Jagged and Penny commissioning her.

"Sabine, I must say that your daughter is the most talented designer I've ever met! No one gets my rock'n'roll style like she does! I've already commissioned outfits for my next ten shows, and a cover for my new album that's coming out soon!" Jagged says excitedly, looping an arm around a blushing Marinette. "I also made sure to pay her accordingly to her work! What she was asking for was simply too little to make up for the quality of her work! Penny already decided to get a day to teach Marinette a bit more about business so she won't get robbed by someone who wants her work for such a cheap price." He completes, giving the girl beside him a big grin.

"Ah, I'm so glad to hear you say that! Marinette has looked up to you for years, so seeing her working with you fills me with pride. And I'm glad you value her work as it should! Some people, including my daughter herself, believe that just because she's young, her designs aren't worth much, so it's a breath of fresh air to see those who look at her talent and hard work instead of her age! And I'm sure those business tips will be of great help!" Sabine says, looking at her daughter fondly, who gives her a sheepish smile. "I'm just glad to see that my daughter has people who have her back, especially due to recent events."

"Ah, yes... Marinette has filled us in about the Lila situation and we both will be helping her with whatever she needs. I don't tend to talk badly about kids, but this girl is truly a brat. And the other classmates are a bunch of fools for believing her and picking her over an amazing girl like Marinette. But no need to worry, since they will all see the truth soon, and come crawling back, asking for Marinette's forgiveness." Penny says and puts a hand on the dark-haired girl's shoulder, who in turn smiles at the woman.

Sabine watches how fond and protective Jagged and Penny are with her daughter and smiles, knowing those two could be trusted to help Marinette when Tom and herself weren't able to. 

"Mme. Rolling, M. Stone, I have a feeling we'll get along just fine.

"Please, just call us by our first names. I told Marinette I consider her my honorary niece, making her, and therefore you, family. Besides, I've never been a big fan of formalities." Jagged says smiling. 

And Marinette could only smile, watching as the people who cared about got along and started to get to know each other better. Because she never hid who she truly was from them, mistakes and flaws included, but they still loved her. Because they still thought she was enough. And that was something she knew Lila could never get. It might be petty, but the thought filled her with pride and happiness, knowing that she didn't have to lie to get people to love her. 

Chapter Text

Chloé was always a petty person. Even when she was just a toddler, she held grudges. One time, her dad had refused to buy her a toy she wanted and in retaliation, she kept crying on his ear for an entire month, even after he changed his mind and bought her the toy. And while it was true she was trying to be a better person, that didn't mean she would change her entire personality. Instead, Chloé decided to simply shift her pettiness targets, and maybe do some good with it. That is why Chloé found herself sitting in front of her computer waiting for Prince Ali to pick up the video call. 

After the whole Princess Fragrance incident, Chloé's dad asked her to apologize to Prince Ali for her behavior, afraid that it might stain Paris' image, and while she had been annoyed at first, she and the prince ended up finding common ground on many things and becoming friends. Despite her first instinct being to brag about it to everyone else, Chloé decided to keep her friendship with Ali a secret, knowing that it might come back to bite her in the ass if she decided to make it public knowledge. And in the end, it paid off and made the revenge against Lila all the more satisfying.

"Chloé, good to see you! How have you been?" The prince said in his annoyingly cheery tone. It was even more annoying because he was genuinely that nice. But it was annoying in a good way. Besides, Chloé also knew Ali was secretly a little shit, so there's that.

"No time for pleasantries, we have work to do Ali." She said. Well, she was trying to be nicer, but that doesn't mean she is.

"Well someone's in a mood, what happened?" Ali asked, already used to Chloé's blunt words. He secretly found it refreshing since she was the only person who didn't walk on eggshells around him.

"There is a girl in my classroom who is a liar and a bully and she's making Adrikins' life harder. She also has it out for Marinette, who is now my friend, so yeah. We need to stop her."

"Uhm this is all very interesting but I don't see how I enter this story?" The prince asked, feeling confused.

"One of the girl's lies is that she is your friend and travels to Achu all the time to help you with some charity or whatever. How anyone believes that is beyond me, especially since you and Rose are still friends."

"And Rose believes this girl's lies?" 

"Not only does she believe them, but her, along with all of our class, decided to turn on Marinette because of some of Lila's lies! Marinette, who is always bending over backwards to help their sorry asses and has been their friend for years!" Chloé says angrily. "Honestly, I'm starting to think my classmates only have one collective brain cells, because nothing else seems to explain that level of stupidity! And they have the audacity to call me a bully. At least when I came for Marinette, I was honest about it, instead of pretending to be her friend and then stabbing her in the back!"

"You seem to really care for Marinette, Chloé. And despite being angry at your classmates, you still want to expose the girl who's been manipulating them. What's her name again? Lila? Seems fitting..." Ali Says with humor in his voice. "You may pretend to be a brat all you want, but deep down you really are a softie!"

"Yeah yeah, don't go spreading it around. I'm Queen Bee after all, and I look after my hive, even if it's quite small at the moment." 

"I'm so proud of you Chloé! But besides Adrien, Marinette and myself, is there anyone else in you so-called hive?" 

"Well, there's Sabrina, even though she seems quite taken by Lila, she is still loyal to me. And there's Kagami..." At the last name, Chloé blushed slightly, remembering about the other girl. That didn't go unnoticed by Ali.

"Oh my! Has the queen bee finally found a partner to rule with her? Has the cupid's arrow finally struck our resident cold-hearted brat?" The prince says amused, making Chloé glare at him.

"Shut up, that doesn't matter. What does matter is that Marinette has a plan to take Lila down, and we could use your help." She says and after a pause, continues. "Please?" the word sounding weirdly coming from her, but showing Ali how serious she was.

"Well, since you asked so nicely, I'm all ears! But after you tell me about this plan, I want to hear more about you and Kagami!" He says while smirking.

"Ugh fine, you win." Chloé relents and even if she would never admit it to anyone, she kinda wanted to take a moment to just gush over her crush. "Now here's the plan..."


 

Marinette sat in her bedroom, knees drawn to her. She had been scrolling through photos when she came across one of her and Alya. Despite everything she and the rest of her classmates had done, it was still hard to let go of the good times. Even after looking over past interactions and realizing how toxic those relationships had been, it still hurt to try and forget them. Because despite everything, Marinette still loved her classmates.

Oh, she knows they aren't really her friend and even after Lila is exposed she doesn't plan on forgiving them but letting go of people who you love is always hard, no matter how much they hurt you. That afternoon, she had picked up every trace of her classmates in her room and thrown away. Physical pictures, gifts and whatnot were all packed in trash bags and now she was going through her phone gallery, deleting all of the digital pictures. But it hurt a lot. She had begun crying and Tikki told her to take a break. Now, she was sitting on her bed, crying while her kwami tried to console her.

Marinette's sniffles were probably louder than she thought because soon enough her mom had come knocking at her trapdoor, asking to come inside. With a nod to Tikki, who darted out to hide, Marinette told Sabine to come up.

Seeing the bags on the floor and the lack of pictures in her daughter's room, Sabine could guess what was happening and, without saying a word, simply sat next to Marinette and pulled her in for a hug. That was all it took for the girl to stop holding her sadness in and finally break down crying. Sabine simply held her daughter close, kissing her temple while the girl let it all out while looking at the window to look out for any Akumas. If Hawkmoth dared to try and akumatize her daughter, Sabine would not hesitate to crush the Akuma with her bare hands, evil magic powers be damned. What she didn't know is that, while all of this was happening, Tikki had put up a protective barrier of sorts around the room. It tired her out since using her powers without the miraculous was very complicated, but Tikki would not let Hawkmoth get to her chosen. That time in the bathroom was already way too close for her liking and she would not take any chances.

About thirty minutes had passed when Marinette finally started to calm down. In this meantime, Tom had simply brought a jar of water and two cups in a tray, only putting it in the bedroom without coming inside, knowing Sabine had it handled, but not wanting his daughter to feel dehydrated after everything. Seeing that Marinette was feeling a bit better, Sabine picked up the tray and brought it closer to them, filling both cups with water and giving one to Marinette, who drank it in one big gulp. 

"Thanks, maman... I'm sorry for being such a mess right now. You and dad already have the bakery to take care of and..." Marinette said sighing

"Now now dear, none of that. You are mine and your dad's number one priority, never forget that. We would do anything for you sweetheart, so never apologize for needing our help. That's what parents' are for." The woman said while kissing her daughter's temple. "But now that you are feeling a little bit better, do you want to talk about it? I'm no psychologist, but I'm still a great listener. It might do you some good to vent, dear."

"I just... I wish it hadn't taken me this long to find out they weren't really my friends, or how one-sided our relationship was. And I wish it didn't hurt so much... I know they weren't good for me and that I'll be better off without them, but it still hurts so much. I want to move on but why does it have to hurt so much?" Marinette said with a sniffle, hugging her mom tight.

"You are a very honest and kind-hearted girl Marinette, so when you love someone, you do it with your whole heart. Unfortunately, that makes it hard to let go of that love. And it will hurt a lot and there will be many moments when you will miss them, but all you can do is keep your head high and move forward. It'll be hard, but you are a strong girl Marinette, stronger than most people seem to realize, and you will get through this." Sabine says while rubbing Marinette's back and smiling at her gently. "Besides, you won't be doing it alone. You have people who have your back and will help you. You have Adrien, Chloé and Kagami. You have Jagged and Penny. And most importantly, you have your father and I. Never forget that sweetheart. We are here for you, no matter what."

"Thank you, maman. I needed that..." Marinette says while sniffling a bit.

"Now, when I mean we are here for you, that also includes the fact that I'm more than willing to pick up my Naginata pole and beat up those kids." Sabine adds, making Marinette let out a burst of startled laughter. "What? I'm serious! All of those years that your grandma spend teaching me how to fight with it would finally come in handy!" And Marinette simply continues laughing, soon being joined by Sabine herself, who was simply glad she managed to make her daughter laugh. "I could teach you how to use it if you want, it's quite fun to be honest."

"That's a very tempting offer mom, I just might take you up on it someday" Marinette says laughing. "But right now I need to finish cleaning my phone gallery."

"I'll leave you to it then, dear. But if you need any help, just call me ok? I'll be taking those bags to put it along with the rest of the trash." Kissing her daughter's temple one last time, Sabine gets up and picks the bags, leaving the room.

Marinette watches her mom leave with a small smile on her face. Tikki soon joins her, settling in her shoulder and giving her a comforting squeeze. With newfound determination, Marinette smiles at Tikki and then nods, picking up her phone and going back to delete the pictures.

It would be a long and painful process, but Marinette would get through this. She was strong enough. And she had friends to pick her up whenever she felt down. 

Yeah... She could do this.

Chapter Text

Gabriel Agreste was well-aware of the fact that he wasn't the best parent around. He was absent and cold but also strict and overbearing, a parallel really, but he managed. Even still, he loved his son very much, after all, they were each other's only family now. That was one reason why Gabriel fought so hard to get his wife back, seeing as she was always the best at caring for their son, and not emotionally constipated as himself, who still had issues understanding emotions even after becoming an empath thanks to the butterfly miraculous. But it was due to this empathy, that Gabriel was able to notice his son's growing anger for a few days now. Adrien, much like his mother, was a very emotional person, feeling sadness, discomfort, happiness, love, nervousness and many other emotions, but anger? That was unusual for the usually sweet and gentle boy.

He had also noticed a few peaks of fondness and love at moments, but that wasn't worrying, seeing as his son had those frequently when he was around his classmate Marinette Dupain-Cheng, even if he was still unaware of his feelings for the baker's daughter. Gabriel saw no problem with that, seeing as Marinette was a respectable young woman and also a talented designer, who started rising only due to her own talent and effort, the thought of using her friendship with Adrien as a way to gain popularity not even crossing her mind. If the two ever got together, Gabriel would have no objections, in fact, he would be quite supportive. But now, he had other concerns.

After asking Nathalie to warn Adrien that they would be having dinner together tonight, Gabriel thought about how he could ask Adrien about his day without seeming weird. Whenever he wanted to know something about his son, he would just ask Nathalie to interrogate him or the Gorilla to follow him around, but somehow, he had a feeling that he should address this personally this time. Taking a seat at the dinner table, Gabriel considered if perhaps making an Akuma to fix this issue wouldn't be easier.

His thoughts were interrupted by footsteps coming down the stairs. Gabriel could feel Adrien's excitement flowing through him in waves and had to contain a smile at his son's happiness. He enjoyed those little moments with Adrien, even if he didn't show it. His son's feelings were contagious and Gabriel had a passing thought of how his son would probably have made a good holder for the butterfly miraculous if the situation had been different.

"Good evening, Father. I'm glad you'll be having dinner with me tonight." Adrien said while trying and failing to not bounce on his feet from excitement.

"Yes, I felt like it's been a while since we last ate together and talked. Now come sit, Adrien, the food will be served soon." And with that, his son sat at the other end of the table. "How have you been these past few days?" Gabriel asked and didn't even need his empathy to tell how surprised his son was at the question. 

"Uhm I'm fine, father. Why do you ask?" The boy answered, confused at his father's uncharacteristic behavior.

"Everything at school is fine? With your friends? Miss Dupain-Cheng?" Gabriel pressed, but soon realized his mistake

"Where is this coming from, father?" Adrien said suspiciously, eyeing his father skeptically.

"Nathalie said you've been looking irritable these past few days and that could harm your image," Gabriel said and regretted it right away, seeing his son's face fall. "... And I'm worried about you Adrien. It's not like you to be angry, much less constantly." The boy lifted his gaze and saw the sincerity in his father's eyes.

"It's just some things happening at school, but I'm taking care of it. nothing you need to worry about, father." Adrien said biting his lip and looked down, avoiding eye contact.

"If it's getting you so worked up, it must be serious. Please talk to me, son." Gabriel said, feeling uncomfortable with the conversation but ignoring that in favor of helping his son with whatever was happening.  

Adrien looked up, surprised at his father's soft tone, and even if he looked slightly constipated, Gabriel was clearly making an effort to talk to his son. To care for him. Adrien felt like crying.

"There's this girl, Lila Rossi... She came to school a while ago, telling lies left and right. She even lied about being friends with Ladybug and being a superhero herself, but Ladybug called her out in front of me. She got akumatized but after Ladybug and Chat Noir took care of that, she just went away, claiming to be traveling with her parents, since they are diplomats. But now she's back and hasn't changed. Not only that, but she started targetting Marinette since she is the only one who noticed the lies and turned the whole class against her. And it just makes me so angry that my classmates would turn their backs on Marinette just because of some new girl with pretty stories. And I know that they would do the same thing to me if Lila decided to target me too..." Adrien said, clenching his fists and Gabriel felt some anger at his son's classmates, who clearly don't deserve him. But nothing prepared him for what Adrien said next. "Lila also seems to have her eyes set on me but for different reasons. She keeps clinging to me and touching me. I don't like it and it makes me uncomfortable but I'm afraid to say anything about and get on Lila's bad side since right now I'm the best option to get more information on her and expose her. Marinette, Chloé, and Kagami all told me that I shouldn't force myself to stay around Lila but I insisted because I want to help. They are doing the best to lessen my contact with Lila but still... It's hard. All three of them keep having to hold each other back from punching Lila every time she even breathes in my direction but in the end, if they use violence it'll only make things worse.

Gabriel could feel himself shake with pure fury. How dare Lila touch his son like that. Before Adrien told him the situation, Gabriel had been considering recruiting the girl as an ally, her willingness to be akumatized and her burning hatred towards Ladybug being appealing traits, but now, Gabriel couldn't help but relate to the other three girls his son mentioned, wanting to send an Akuma after her just to constantly punch her for being a lying manipulative harassing little brat. The anger he felt at this girl rivaled the one he felt towards the heroes of Paris, and that was saying something.

"Son, after we have dinner, I want you to go to your room and call your friends to let them know you won't be tolerating Miss Rossi's behavior anymore and that they'll need to find another way to get information on her." At that, Adrien looked ready to protest, but Gabriel lifted his hand. "What if the positions were reversed? Would you let Miss Dupain-Cheng be harassed by someone? Just because you are a boy, that doesn't mean it's ok for people to touch you without your consent. It's sexual harassment and it should not be tolerated. I will not tolerate it." Gabriel said angrily, surprising Adrien who wasn't used to seeing his father lose his cool. Not wanting to scare his son, Gabriel took a deep breath and continued. "Listen, you are a model Adrien, so people will be trying to touch you all the time. Unless you give them permission, they are not allowed to. Fans, designers, photographers, other models, anyone really. The fashion industry can be a very ugly place, and while women tend to take the brunt of it, many men also suffer through harassment. I naively believed I could protect you from that just using my name, but now I see that was a mistake." Gabriel got up from his chair and walked all the way to the other side of the table, sitting on the chair right next to Adrien and holding his hand. "If anyone, and I mean anyone, touches you without your consent or start making you uncomfortable, come to me. Please, Adrien... Don't force yourself to deal with those things. You are not alone. I know I am not the best parent around, but I love you, Adrien and I would do anything to protect you." 

Adrien was too shocked to care about the tears running down his face. He had always thought he should bend over and let people touch him since he was a model, figured it was just part of the job and that he just had to endure it. But after listening to his father, he could see that he had been wrong. The thought of someone touching Marinette the same way Lila touched him made his blood boil, and really, what was the difference then? His gender didn't matter. It was harassment, and he would not put up with it anymore. Not after hearing his father talking about how bad the fashion industry can be with this. Not after being told his comfort matters. That he is a human and not some accessorie to be paraded around and touched. Marinette, Chloé and Kagami had all told him that, yes, but hearing it from his father was different. It made him realize the gravity of the situation.

"Thank you, Dad!" Adrien exclaimed, hugging his father and not caring if he was acting improperly around him. And Gabriel, for once, didn't care either, embracing his son tenderly, rubbing calming circles on his back. 

The two stayed like that for a while, and at that moment they weren't Gabriel and Adrien Agreste, icons of the fashion industry. They weren't Hawkmoth and Chat Noir, arch-nemesis for life. They were just Gabriel and Adrien, father and son, hugging and supporting each other in a moment of need. 

"Mr. Agreste, the dinner is ready- Oh, I'm sorry for interrupting," Nathalie said, coming into the room and feeling shocked at the sight in front of her.

"No, it's fine Nathalie. Could you just bring my plate and silverware over here? I would like to eat sitting next to my son. And please tell the chef to bring in the food." Gabriel said, surprisingly not feeling embarrassed for being caught in such an emotional state. Adrien beamed at him, letting go of the hug but keeping his hand locked with his father's. Nathalie sent him a look, letting him know that she would be asking questions later, but complied. And it might have been a trick of the light, but Gabriel could have sworn he saw a small smile on the usually cold and stoic woman's face as she left the room.