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A Ladybug in Gotham

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Marinette couldn’t stop the smile on her face as she leaned back in her chair, holding the acceptance paper over her head.

“We did it, Tikki! We got the trip!”

Tikki whizzed around, fluttering in front of her.

“Oh, Marinette, I know you could do it! Madame Bustier will be so happy!” Marinette smiled as her kwami nuzzled her cheek, and the girl laughed, cupping the little god close to her face.

“It’ll be just what I need for inspiration, Tikki! Gotham is beautiful in the spring I hear.” With a jolt, she sat up, her chair creaking under the sudden movement, “I have to go tell maman and papa!”

She left Tikki giggling as she raced downstairs to tell her parents.

It was one of the most exciting days of the last four years, truly.

With the fundraising done ahead of time, all she’d needed to do was write an essay on why her school deserved the trip. Despite how she personally had been treated by her class these last few years, the school still had them actively involved in the community; and while she may not like most of her classmates anymore thanks to Lila, they still took their responsibilities seriously. They had rightfully earned this chance, she thought. As the year rep, she had worked tirelessly with the other classes and their reps to arrange preparations in the event they got it, and Mme. Bustier had publicly assigned her the role of the essay; Lila had not been thrilled about that.

But she’d done it!

They were going to Gotham!

Telling Master Fu abou the possibility went well; her master trusted her judgement, and he understood her desire to go on this trip. To be safe though, he decided to send Kaalki along with her, in the event of an akuma; that way a speedy return was always possible no matter what.

She was excited; but it didn’t change the fact that the trip was still a good six months away, a good end of the year trip before graduation.

‘Just a little longer,’ Marinette thought, a rueful smile on her lips, ‘A little longer, and I’ll finally have a break.’

The four years since Lila’s return had not been kind, or even all that fun. She did her best not to dwell on her emotions, what with a madman running around praying on any and all negative feelings; but she couldn’t deny the apathy she felt at times in regards to her classmates.

Lila had made good on her promise, truly. None of her old friends cared about her anymore, bar Alix and - surprisingly - Chloe. Alya had even hit her before summer break, claiming that Lila had told her Marinette shoved her down the stairs again.

And Marinette had stared right at Adrien, her boyfriend, and he had done nothing.

And she felt nothing when she broke up with him later that same week.

Finding out he was Chat Noir over the summer had been like a slap to the face, and she was just glad he didn’t realize she’d put the pieces together; especially considering how often he visited her balcony as his hero self. He’d always flirt with her as Chat, whether she was Ladybug or Marinette; and at first, she’d almost found it flattering. Then it started to make her uncomfortable.

She’d reject him as Ladybug, only to have him come whine to Marinette while he also made passes at her, showering her in praise, and pushing her to get back with Adrien. She started avoiding her balcony.

It left her stressed and on edge; Adrien only talked to her as Chat now. He wouldn’t risk talking to her at school, and after they broke up, her parents had barred him from the bakery.

But still.

Six months.

Six more months of hell, and she’d be heading to Gotham to destress.

She couldn’t wait.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

The flight had been rather dull, despite Chloe being her seatmate for the whole trip; they’d giggled over some awful american movie for the last half, and Madame Bustier had been kind enough to room her with Chloe at their hotel. The Grand Gotham Embassy building was massive, and Marinette couldn’t help but gape in awe.

Chloe snorted as she walked up next to Mari, her own carry on in hand as they stepped off the bus.

“Careful, DC, you’ll catch flies.” Mari snapped her mouth shut, and gave Chloe a flat look; the blonde only laughed, and linked their arms.

“Come on Mari-bear, let’s get our room key so our luggage can be taken up.” Marinette smiled, and nodded.

“Yeah, I wanna get settled in too.” She leaned closer to Chloe as they walked arm in arm into the hotel lobby, heading for Mme. Bustier, “Tikki is starving.” Chloe nodded.

“Pollen is too.” She said just as softly. Marinette saw Alix wave from where she stood talking to Kim and Max, and Mari waved back softly. She averted her eyes the second Max looked at her, and Chloe hurried them away once they had their keys.

Their rooms were breathtaking, honestly. Each of the suites her class was staying in had two rooms, each with their own single bed; there was a shared seating area between the two, and one bathroom, but it still had privacy. They each had a door out onto the connected balcony, and once Marinette sat her carry on bag on her bed, she threw open the balcony door, staring out over the cityscape in wonder. Paris was beautiful, the city of Love; but Gotham was gorgeous this high up.

With a thought of mischief, Marinette scoped out some good swinging spots for later before turning to see the bellhops unloading her bags. She offered them a smile and a sincere thank you as they left. She heard Chloe settling into her room through the door, and smiled as she heard her talking to Pollen. Master Fu had decided to send Pollen along with Chloe in the event that Ladybug had to come to Paris; she could bring another ally with her if needed, without having to search one out. And since Chloé had figured out her identity two years ago, she had been the best bet. Her new hero identity, Hornet, helped.

Tikki flew out of the purse at her side, and smiled.

“We made it, Marinette! We’re finally here! Do you think the Gotham university will be what you want?”

Marinette sighed as she flopped back onto her bed, staring at the ceiling, “I don’t know, Tikki; I hope so. The website was super promising, and the woman I spoke to seemed to think I’d have no problem getting in.”

Tikki hummed as she flew down and dug a cookie from Marinette’s purse, “Well, we’ll be here for a month, so it’s plenty of time to go and see the campus. I think you’ll like it Marinette! And once we defeat Hawkmoth, maybe we can start a new chapter here!” Marinette smiled at Tikki, sitting up.

“I think I like the sound of that. I’m worried about how… Adrien will handle it though.” Her smile fell as soon as it had come, and Tikki frowned as well. She floated over to her chosen and rested her paw on Marinette’s cheek.

“Marinette, his feelings are not your responsibility. You and Adrien broke up, and the fact that he was disrespecting your wishes as his superhero self was a major red flag. I don’t know why you were so upset when the Guardian took his miraculous.”

Marinette groaned, covering her face with her hands, and Tikki wove herself into her long hair, hugging the girl.

“I know he was your partner, Marinette, and you don’t want to replace him; but you have to know, Adrien isn’t the true Black Cat.”

Marinette went still.

“Tikki, what are you talking about?”

Tikki hesitated, before floating in front of Marinette’s face, “Well, for some of the miraculous, there are multiple people who can be Chosen, and some of them are better candidates than others. Adrien was the best option out of the people in Paris, so the Guardian Chose him; but he is not meant to be your Black Cat, he is just A Black Cat.” Marinette stared at her Kwami with wide eyes, slowly processing.

“So… you’re saying he’s not my other half?”

Tikki shook her head, “No; and he was never meant to be. His actions have done nothing but prove that. I’m sure once we return to Paris, we’ll be sent to find the real Black Cat.”

And in a moment of clarity, Marinette realized she was out of Paris, far away from Hawkmoth; so when tears rose to her eyes, she let them come. She covered her mouth as she sobbed, and she bent over, resting her elbows on her knees as she breathed.

“Oh, Marinette, don’t cry! Please don’t be sad!” Tikki fluttered around her anxiously as she cried, and after a moment, Marinette laughed; it was a bit raspy, but it was happy. She spared a glance at her purse, where, in a secret pocket, she had stored Plagg’s slumbering miraculous; she looked back at her own kwami.

“Tikki, I’m-I’m not sad, I’m… I’m so relieved.” Her smile was weak, but sincere, “I was terrified that he was an inevitability I’d have to just accept…” Tikki’s frown grew, and she hugged her chosen again, little tears leaking down her face.

“I’m so sorry Marinette, I wish you didn’t have to feel so much negativity all the time.”

A knock at her and Chloe’s shared door cut her off before she could reply, and Marinette looked over in time to see Chloe peek in. The blonde’s eyes grew wide when she saw Mari crying, and she rushed over, sitting on the bed next to her.

“What’s wrong, Mari-bear?”

And Marinette laughed, wrapping her arms around Chloe.

“For once, nothing!” 

Chloe shared a look with Tikki while the kwami spoke with Pollen in hushed tones, but she just hugged her friend closer. They sat in silence for awhile, waiting while Marinette composed herself. With a final sniffle, Marinette leaned back and gave Chloe a grin.

“Since it’s a rest day, do you think they’d let us check out the surrounding boutiques? I wanna see what kind of fashion Gotham has.”

Chloe snorted, but it was in good humor, “Nothing they have here could compare to what you make, Mari-bear, or even what Paris has in general.” With a smile, Chloe reached over and tapped her nose, “But I’m sure Mme. Bustier will allow it as long as you’re with someone as amazing as me.”

Chloe had learned long ago not to pry into Marinette’s business, and since she’d split up with Adrien, Chloe had learned just how true that statement was; learning that the blonde boy was Chat Noir and that he’d been harassing Marinette on her balcony? That had been an accident, though Marinette had been the one to tell her.

Chloe could only watch Marinette flinch away from the Cat hero so much before she’d gotten concerned, and asked for an explanation. And Marinette hadn’t held back; she’d told Chloe everything, from the midnight visits, to how he constantly complained about Ladybug - herself -, and finally to how he flirted with her as Marinette, and kept insinuating that she get back with Adrien.

As the only one who knew, Chloe had doubled down on partnering with Marinette for everything after that; and now that his miraculous had been reclaimed, Chloe wanted to sigh in relief.

If you’d told either girl four years ago that they would be inseparable even at the end of lycée, they would’ve scoffed and told you you were crazy; and yet here they were, Chloe helping Marinette clean up her face before they went to see madame Bustier. It was only around 3 pm in Gotham, and dinner wouldn’t be until 8; and as much as Marinette wanted to enjoy the indoor pool, she would much rather see the city.

Once they were ready, Chloe led them down to the lobby, kwamis secure in their purses, and found Miss Bustier talking with one of the receptionists. Chloe - being, well, Chloe - walked over, and interrupted.

“Mme. Bustier, Mari-bear and I are going to look at the boutiques across the street. Call me if you need us.” And leaving their teacher spluttering and indignant, Chloe led them away, and out the doors. Marinette laughed a bit as they were out of hearing range.

“She’s going to kill you Chloe, you know that?” Chloe smiled while they stood at the crosswalk waiting to cross, and she flipped her blonde bob over her shoulder.

“Please. That woman wishes she could do anything to stop me.” Marinette watched as Chloe’s smile fell, and they walked as the walk sign lit up. “Besides, of course I’m not going to listen to a teacher who has let Lila just do as she pleases. She’s just as complicit in your abuse as the rest of the class is, Mari-bear, and I will not tolerate it. It’s utterly ridiculous.”

Marinette felt her heart warm, and her smile softened before she hugged Chloe’s arm closer to her. “Thanks, Chlo. Though you know~” Chloe groaned, knowing where Marinette was going with this, “you also used to torment me pretty relentlessly.”

Chloe levelled her with a flat look as they walked into a store, “Yes, we’ve established that, DC, thank you for reminding me.” Chloe pinched Marinette’s cheek with a grin, “Such a goody goody, you know that?” Marinette laughed, and batted her hand away.

“Come on, let’s see what they’ve got, dork.” She ignored Chloe’s indignant squawk, and laughed as she started looking through the clothes.

Marinette and Chloe talked idly while they browsed, but found nothing of note in the first store other than a cute pair of bulky sneakers that Marinette couldn’t help but buy. Chloe had rolled her eyes and commented on how thin they made her legs look; which of course, made Marinette reveal the inspiration behind the choice. BLACKPINK was a pretty popular K-pop girl group, and Marinette had fallen in love with their style since day one. The baggy pants with big shoes they often used was something Marinette found herself enjoying more than she ever thought she would, but she just hadn’t found the right pair of shoes until now.

The next store was much better, in Chloe’s opinion; Marinette shied away from the Agreste line on display, and followed Chloe over to where her mother’s work was displayed. Audrey was a difficult woman, but neither of them could deny her talent in the industry.

Both girls ended up leaving with something to fit in their wardrobes. Chloe had chosen a deep purple blouse with ruffled sleeves; Marinette had giggled, telling her she reminded her of a witch, but the color was excellent on her. Marinette had gone more simple and fun, opting for a zip up hoodie inspired by one of Gotham’s own heroes, Robin. It may have been spring in Gotham, but being Ladybug, Marinette was very susceptible to the cold; she’d get sluggish and sleepy, and spring in the states was cooler than in France.

By the time they were bored of the shops, it was only five o’ clock. Chloe stifled a yawn, and Marinette looked at her.

“Why don’t you go ahead and head back Chloe? I’m gonna go sit in the park there, and try to design for a bit.” Chloe stared at her for a moment before she looked at the park. It was visible from the front of the hotel, and their hotel was in the better part of the city. Well, all that, and the fact that Marinette was Ladybug…  

Chloe nodded, taking Marinette’s shopping bag for her since the girl had already put on her new hoodie, “That should be ok. But I swear, DC, if something happens, I am not letting you go anywhere alone for the rest of this trip.” Marinette laughed, and waved off her concerns.

“Don’t worry, Chlo, if anything happens, I can handle it.” Feeling playful, Marinette raised her arm, and flexed, “After all, these guns aren’t just for show.”

Listening to Chloe laugh hysterically was always a treat, and it warmed Marinette from her toes to her head every time. In some small way, she was grateful to Lila; if it hadn’t been for her, she and Chloe would’ve probably never become such good friends.

“Ugh, no one likes a show off, Marinette.”

The smile fell from her face instantly, and Chloe’s laughter cut off like someone flipped a switch. Mari turned to see Lila standing behind her with a smug smile, though it had been Alya who spoke, Alya who was glaring at her with disdain. Nino was behind them looking kind of uncomfortable, Adrien next to him, backed up by Rose and Juleka, and even Sabrina. Marinette flinched under the harsh stares, and felt herself shrink as she stepped back, but before she could say anything, Chloe was there, a snarl marring her lips.

“Funny how you say that Cesaire, given who you’re friends with.” She blocked their line of sight to Marinette, though it was only Lila’s and Alya’s, and Marinette could feel Adrien staring at her, “You think what Mari was doing was showing off? Then what do you call Lila bragging about all the fake shit she’s done, huh?” Chloe didn’t even give her time to respond before she scoffed, and rolled her eyes, shutting down Alya’s retort, “Oh, wait, nevermind, I forgot. You’re such a terrible reporter you don’t even fact check anymore, my bad.” Chloe smiled at the end, before making a shooing motion with her hand, “Now begone. I don’t appreciate sheep breathing my air.”

Lila turned on the waterworks as Chloe turned away, and gently guided Marinette down the sidewalk to the park they’d been talking about; Alya was shouting after them, but they continued on. Once they were out of sight, Chloe wrapped her friend in a hug, and Marinette cried. It was how it happened every time, for the last three years, since Chloe had decided to stick to the girl’s side. She’d only known about her being Ladybug for two years, but even before then, she’d made efforts to befriend the girl she’d bullied; because Lila was somehow so much worse than even Chloe was, and it was plain for the blonde to see. It had become routine at this point.

Lila and Alya would gang up on Marinette, Chloe would make them back off, and then comfort Marinette. Mari had told her time and time again, she didn’t need to do that, but Chloe knew she did. Chloe had messed up too many times to count, and she knew Marinette still cared about some of their classmates, especially Alix since she was the only other one who would hang out with them.

But Chloe?

Chloe had never cared about sparing people’s feelings until she’d become Marinette’s support. She would tear them down each time they came for her best friend. Alix had told her she was ‘fierce’, and Chloe thought it was an accurate description nowadays. They were nearly adults for crying out loud; you’d think her idiot classmates would’ve caught on to Lila’s lies by now.

“Are you ok?” Chloe asked softly. She rubbed soothing circles into Marinette’s back as the girl calmed down, her cries giving way to sniffles. Marinette nodded, pulling back and wiping her eyes.

“I-I think so. Thanks Chloe. It feels… It actually feels so much better to just let it out, and not have to worry about getting akumatized.” Chloe nodded, brushing some hair out of Marinette’s face.

“Good. Cesaire is lucky I didn’t deck her. Like, seriously, what a hypocrite.” Chloe was fuming, but she softened when Marinette laughed, “Do you still wanna sit in here and try to design?”

Marinette cleared her throat, and nodded, “Yeah, I do. It’ll be nice, I think.” She rubbed at her face some more, wiping the moisture away, but her red eyes remained. “I just want to decompress for a bit, you know?”

Chloe nodded, “Ok, then I’m gonna go ahead and go back to our room.” She gave her friend a severe look, “And I’m serious, Marinette. If anything happens, you call or text me, ok?”

Marinette rolled her eyes, but smiled, “Chloe you’re not my bodyguard, you know that right?”

Chloe scoffed, “Bullshit, I am so. And I am totally the best at it, by the way.”

Marinette hugged Chloe tight, startling the other girl, “Thanks, Chlo. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Chloe’s mind flashed back to a dark night on the Seine from three years ago; of tears, and horrible wishes, and she wraps her arms around Marinette in a tighter embrace.

“Probably get lost, and then kidnapped, honestly. Your sense of direction is awful, Mari-bear.”

It worked, sparking another laugh out of her best friend, and Chloe wanted to sigh in relief.

“Now go and find yourself a nice spot to sit. I’m going to make sure Lie-la and her little goonies are gone.” Marinette nodded as they separated, and Chloe booped her on the nose, “I’ll see you back at the room, DC.”

With that, Chloe waved and walked back towards the entrance of the park. She needed to talk to Alix. Lila always planned something big when Chloe defended Mari, and she was sure this time would be no different. She needed to be ready.

And without the risk of being akumatized?

Well.

Chloe couldn’t help but laugh.

Lila wouldn’t know what hit her.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Marinette found a soft patch of grass in the sun behind a wall of bushes, and sighed as she sat her purse on the ground, and flopped down. She could hear the rush of cars on the street over, and sirens in the far distance; there were birds singing in the trees around her, and children laughing over at the playground she’d passed. It was peaceful.

“Marinette? Are you ok?”

She smiled as Tikki nestled into her long hair, offering her comfort.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m ok Tikki. I just wish they’d stop. It’s lessened since Chloe became my friend, but it doesn’t change the fact that it hurts. Hearing Alya say such awful things to me, even now…” Marinette sighed, feeling her eyes tear up; nope, she was done for today, she could cry again tomorrow, “It still feels like a knife in my lungs.”

And she knew what that felt like; Sharpener had been an akuma from two years ago. She was a chef who’d gotten akumatized because her coworker had broken her best knife out of jealousy. Chat Noir had been distracted during the fight, and Ladybug had missed the akuma’s approach, taking the knife right between her ribs. Her Miraculous Cure had healed her, but Marinette still remembered the pain quite vividly.

She’d almost been akumatized after the fight was over, having been sent into a panic attack.

Shaking herself out of it, Marinette reached over into her purse and pulled out her sketchbook. She’d upgraded from her little clasp bag that she’d made to something with a bit more utility. It was a lavender shoulder bag with a cross strap, and it was large enough to hold her sketchpad, and a few other essentials while leaving plenty of room for Tikki and Kaalki, along with the pocket for Plagg’s miraculous box.

“Marinette, I know their treatment of you still hurts. I’d be more worried if it didn’t. But remember,” And Marinette looked at Tikki, surprised to see the bright smile on the kwami’s face, “you’re Ladybug, with or without the mask, and if they can’t see how sincere and kind you are, then they never deserved you in the first place.” Tikki flew forward, and hugged Marinette’s cheek, “You’re  the best Ladybug I’ve ever had, and you mean so much to me. I hate seeing people hurt you, and I’m sorry I can’t do more for you, Marinette.”

“Tikki’s right, Marinette.” Mari glanced down to see Kaalki poking her head out of the purse, a smile on her face, “You’re an excellent Ladybug, and you’ll be an excellent Guardian one day, we all know it.”

Mari smiled, reaching down and rubbing Kaalki’s head gently, “Thanks Kaalki, thank you Tikki. I love you guys. You hungry?” Both kwamis said yes, and so Marinette handed Tikki a couple cookies, while Kaalki dove into the small pile of sugar cubes Marinette gave her. Tikki and Kaalki conversed quietly in her purse, and Marinette finally turned her attention to her sketchbook.

Humming to herself, Marinette drifted off as her pencil danced across the paper. It was easy to get lost in the sounds of the park around her, and she was thrilled with what she was coming up with. Already, dresses and casual clothes filled the next few pages of her book as she worked. She was just about to ask Tikki something when an explosion rocked the earth.

Marinette yelped as the ground beneath her rumbled, and Tikki burrowed into her hair in a panic.

“What was that, Marinette?!” Marinette shook her head, getting to her feet, and putting her bag over her shoulder, reaching in, and patting Kaalki in reassurance. She crawled to the edge of the bush where all the commotion had originated from, and peeked out carefully. Most of the people were gone, but she could still hear crying somewhere.

Then the laughter started.

Marinette felt a chill go down her spine. While her and the other reps of the school had been planning this trip, she had researched about every danger Gotham had to offer, looking at pictures, reading articles, and watching as many videos as she could find; she knew that laugh now.

She was just about to hide again, when she saw the source of the crying. A little girl with dark hair sat in the dirt behind a trash can, holding her hands to her eyes while she sobbed. Mind made up, Marinette dashed from the bushes, keeping low until she reached the child. She wrapped her arms around her, and when the girl tensed, she smiled gently.

“Shhh, it’s ok, honey, I’ve got you. Where’s your parents?” The little girl shook her head, tiny hands clutching Marinette’s jacket.

“N-not- h-here! B-babysitter left m-me…!” Another sob wracked the little girl’s frame, and Marinette hugged her tighter at the sound of gunfire. She needed to get out of here, get this girl to safety, but she couldn’t transform. Idly, Marinette toyed with the metal yo-yo in her purse, a gift from Master Fu that could help her fight as a civilian. She could do this.

Focusing back on the girl, Marinette pulled her back until they could look at each other; the girl’s eyes were a vibrant green, almost neon even.

“My name’s Marinette, what’s yours sweetheart?” The girl caught her breath long enough to answer, wiping at her face.

“M-Mar’i Grayson, miss.” Marinette nodded, looking at the girl in reassurance.

“I’m going to get you out of here. Let me check the area, ok? Stay behind me.” Mar’i nodded, clutching the sleeve of Marinette’s hoodie, while she leaned out around the trash can to observe their surroundings; and she promptly cursed her rotten luck.

Joker was strolling through the park with about three henchmen around him; 4 on 1 odds were not in her favor, especially with Mar’i. Marinette glanced at the little girl who was crying silently next to her, trying to not think about how much worse Joker looked in real life. Marinette found she was terrified.

No. 

She had to do something. She was Ladybug, with or without her damn mask, and she was going to protect this little girl with her life.

Marinette took a deep breath, and braced herself, “Mar’i.” The little girl looked at her with wide eyes, and Marinette smiled.

“Stay behind me, ok?” She waited until Mar’i nodded, and then they waited; and Marinette listened.

“Can’t seem to find her boss. She must’ve gotten out.”

“Oh hogwash! I saw that babysitter of hers scamper out of here without the brat, so Grayson’s daughter is here somewhere!”

Oh my god.

They were after Mar’i? Why?

‘Doesn’t matter, not gonna get her.’ Marinette thought aggressively. So she calmed herself, and she listened, and she waited until they were in range. And once they were, Marinette moved.

Leaping up out of her crouch, Marinette moved Mar’i behind her right as the group turned to look at them; but Marinette was already grabbing the trash can with both hands, and hurling it at the goons and their boss. It had the desired effect, and the group scattered, but it managed to take down two of Joker’s men, knocking one out from the sheer force while the other lost the grip on his gun, losing it in the bushes. Moving quickly, Marinette swiped Mar’i up with her free hand while she retrieved the carbon fiber yo-yo from her purse with her other.

Whipping it forward, Marinette snagged the gun of the third minion, yanking it away and to her; and then she ran.

“She’s got the brat! Get after her, you idiots!”

Marinette sprinted for the entrance of the park after throwing the gun away, running as fast as her legs could carry her; which admittedly, was quite fast. Years of being bonded with Tikki, plus the extra training she’d picked up in her free time made her formidable even out of her suit; and she was not about to let that clown get his filthy hands on this precious girl.

Marinette yelped as a bullet impacted the dirt next to her feet, and then she was bobbing and weaving, dodging bullets before she ducked behind the bathrooms.

“Get the kid, damnit! God, why are you all so useless!”

Marinette looked down at Mar’i, expecting the girl to still be terrified, but she was staring up at Marinette in awe.

“Wow, Miss Marinette, you’re like a superhero!” She said softly, and Marinette flushed, but gave the girl a small smile.

“You’re very brave Mar’i, but we’re not safe yet.” She could hear footsteps coming closer, light, matching the gait she’d heard from the Joker just moments earlier. With a small huff, she wrapped Mar’i around her again, and readied her yo-yo as she ran the opposite way. She stopped short for a moment as she came face to face with the other henchman, but thinking quickly, Marinette ducked his wide swing, and brought her head upwards into his chin, knocking him back and off balance; following up with a quick swipe at his legs, he hit the ground, and Marinette was running again.

‘Almost there, so close…’ “Merde.” She hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but seeing Joker grinning at her from the entrance did not instill much hope in her. He tapped the barrel of his six shooter against the palm of his hand, watching her. Marinette sat Mar’i down, and pushed her behind her further, grip on her yo-yo tight.

“Now, now, little lady, we don’t have to fight. If you’d just hand that little girl there over, I’ll let you leave. With a smile even!” The grin on his face told her he was lying, even though his laughter was a clue in and of itself.

Marinette’s eyes narrowed, and she lowered her chin, “That’s not happening, clown. Step aside.” Joker’s eyebrows flew up, and he began laughing; Marinette hated that sound.

“She’s got some fight in her then! How interesting! And a foreigner too? So fearless!” Marinette let the yo-yo swing from her hand, swinging next to her leg, as he pointed the gun at her. She felt Mar’i grip her pants tighter with a small gasp. Joker’s grin grew, “But are you so willing to die for her?”

Marinette snarled, “Of course I am!”

The lack of hesitation made the Joker pause long enough for Marinette to make her move.

With a precision that startled even her, Marinette flung her yo-yo out again, managing to grab the Joker’s gun this time, and yanking it from him. It careened away into the brush, and Marinette snapped her yo-yo back with a trained hand; just in time to see a man dressed in black land on him from above.

Holy shit.

That’s Batman.

Shaking herself off, Marinette turned and picked Mar’i up, running the other direction; no child should see a fight like that. She had to get her to safety, to her parents, or the police, someone safe. The bathrooms? No, she’d left that goon over there, and she wasn’t sure if he was down and out or not.

“Think, Marinette, think, come on!” There had to be another exit in this park, away from the chaos of the main path; big parks always had multiple entrances and exits.

“Go that way Miss Marinette!” Marinette looked to where Mar’i pointed, and followed the girls directions. Flashing red and blue lights lit up the street, and Marinette could’ve cried with relief at the sight of the police officers.

An auburn haired woman was standing at the front of the police line, looking around in a panic, and the second her eyes landed on Marinette carrying Mar’i, she rushed forward.

“Mar’i, oh my god, baby girl, you’re ok!” The woman was crying, and Mar’i smiled, reaching for the woman.

“Auntie Barb!” Knowing Mar’i knew this woman, Marinette allowed the girl to be taken from her arms delicately, but she lingered by them. An older mustached man walked up, and held out his hand to Marinette, startling her.

“Thank you for getting her out of there. What’s your name?” Marinette flushed, reaching out and shaking his hand.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng, sir. Please don’t thank me. I couldn’t have left her in there. Not with him.”

“I’m Commissioner Gordon. You don’t sound like you’re from around here, Miss Dupain-Cheng.” Marinette shook her head as she stepped back from him.

“No, sir; I’m from Paris. My school is here on a field trip.” The commissioner nodded.

“You’re the school Bruce Wayne sponsored.” Marinette offered him a tired smile.

“Yes, sir.”

“Miss Marinette!”

Marinette turned in time to feel tiny arms wrap around her legs, and she looked down to see Mar’i smiling at her, despite the tears on her face. Marinette crouched down to her level, and blinked when Mar’i wrapped her arms around her neck; she was quick to return the hug, even as she saw ‘Auntie Barb’ walk over.

“Thank you for saving me, Miss Marinette! You were really cool!” Marinette’s smile was small as she squeezed the little girl tight.

“Oh little one, you don’t have to thank me. I would do it again and again if need be.” She hummed contemplatively, “Though I think I’ll talk to your mama or papa about that babysitter; who leaves a little girl alone in this city?”

‘Auntie Barb’ scoffed, “When Dick hears about that, he’s gonna lose it.”

“Mar’i!”

Marinette looked over in time to see the police part like the red sea, and she was treated to seeing nearly the entire Bat pack escort a dishevelled looking dark haired man through the crowd. Mar’i broke away from her to run to the new arrival.

“Daddy!”

And Marinette smiled as she stood up, watching the two hug. Her father was patting her down, holding her close by the head, obvious relief in his eyes. It was a beautifully heart wrenching thing.

“Miss.”

Marinette jumped, looking to the side to see Batman staring down at her. She yelped, flushing.

“Y-yes, sir?”

My god, this man was intimidating! Was he going to lecture her? Bar her from the country??! Oh no, what if-?!

….Why was he holding his hand out?

Marinette blinked stupidly before she took his hand and shook it.

“What you did tonight was very admirable. You put yourself at great personal risk to protect the life of a child you’d never met, and managed to thwart a kidnapping by one of the most dangerous men in the city. You have my respect.”

Marinette’s cheeks grew more red, “Please, I-I’d do it all again, you don’t have to say any of that. It was the right thing to do; anyone would’ve done it.” Batman simply shook his head.

“No, Miss Dupain-Cheng, they wouldn’t. I’d like to get a statement from you, if you’d allow it.”

“Before that…”

Marinette and Batman both looked over, and she was surprised to see Mar’i’s father next to her. He gave her a smile.

“I would like to thank you for rescuing my darling, Miss… Marinette, was it?” Marinette nodded, fiddling with her hands; her anxiety was starting to peak with this many people. “If anything had happened to Mar’i, I… I don’t know what I would’ve done. Thank you. From the absolute depths of my heart, thank you for protecting my little girl.”

Marinette’s face grew impossibly redder, “Y-you’re welcome! It was no problem! She’s a wonderful girl.” She smiled at Mar’i as she sat in her dad’s arms. Shifting the girl to one arm, he held out his free hand.

“My name is Dick Grayson. I hope to see you again, but for now, I need to get Mar’i home before her mother gets any more anxious.” Marinette nodded as they shook hands.

“If I may, mister Grayson?” The man smiled, and despite the situation, it was shockingly cheery.

“Please, call me Dick.”

‘Auntie Barb’ snorted in amusement somewhere next to Marinette, but she tuned it out.

“Please speak to whoever was babysitting Mar’i today; they left her behind.”

Dick stared at her for a moment, maybe processing, before he nodded, a steely look in his eyes.

“Thank you for telling me, Marinette. We’ll take care of it.” Marinette smiled, before she dug around in her purse, and pulled out one of the many cookies she had for Tikki; she handed it over to Mar’i who took it with a smile of her own.

“You be safe, ok?” Mar’i nodded, giving her a bigger smile.

“I will! You’re the best, Miss ‘Nette!” Smiling at the nickname, Marinette waved to the little girl as the police escorted the family away; she realized Batman was still next to her, and snapped her attention back to him.

“S-sorry, sir. I’ll give you that statement now.”

The man seemed less intimidating for some reason, like he was quietly amused.

“You’re surprisingly humble in the face of all this, Marinette.”

‘Calm down, calm down, you’re fine.’ She thought, gripping her bag.

“I didn’t do this for attention, sir. I’m… not exactly comfortable being in the spotlight like this.”

The masked man nodded in understanding, and once he was ready, Marinette began her retelling of what had happened.

Distinctly unaware of the several pairs of ears listening in.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Holy shit, you’re telling me pixie stick here threw a metal trash can at Joker?! Like a full on throw?!” Red Hood wasn’t buying it. The girl was so tiny, despite the toned muscles of her legs; she looked like she weighed ninety pounds soaking wet!

“That’s what the cameras in the park are showing, Hood.” He heard Red Robin typing away at something, before- “Holy shit.” Hood stood back by the police, flanked by Robin, and he turned his attention back to his comm line.

“What is it, Red?”

“That girl took them down with a fucking yo-yo, Hood. What the hell?”

The comm fell silent again before Jason heard all the air whoosh out of Tim over the line.

“Red? What now?”

“The… The audio. Hood, she was fully prepared to lay down her life for Mar’i. You can hear it in her voice; it’s like she’s a completely different person to who Bats is talking to.”

Damian’s eyes narrowed behind his mask as he frowned; he didn’t like the sound of that. Red Hood noticed the change in his brother’s demeanor, frowning to himself.

“What do you mean, Red?” He asked, and he heard Tim sigh.

“Look, just… wait till you get back, and I’ll show you. That girl’s good though; she’s got guts.”

A shrill call of the girls name had Jason turning, just in time to see a blonde girl tackle Marinette. She was speaking rapidly in French, checking her friend over thoroughly before she turned sharp eyes on Batman. Jason couldn’t help but grin as he watched Bruce’s eyes widen behind the mask, his eyebrows raising a little as the blonde started on a tirade.

Red Hood snickered, “Now this is funny.” He watched his father get berated by the blonde before she started guiding Marinette away; the poor dark haired girl was red all the way to her ears in embarrassment.

“Find something funny, Hood?” Jason looked at Batman as he walked over, and wished his old man could see the shit eating grin on his face.

“Course I did. It’s not everyday I get to watch a teenager yell at you.”  Next to him, Robin snorted. Hood and Robin waited until Bats had given Gordon the girl’s statement before the three of them left as one.

They met on a nearby rooftop, far enough away from the scene to be able to talk freely. Batman turned his comm back on, and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Red, what do you have on her?” There was a sigh over the line.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng, 17, nearly 18; she’s in her last year of lycée at Francoise Dupont in Paris. She’s the one who put together the essay that won her school the trip to Gotham. Her parents own a bakery, but her mother has a vast history in martial arts it looks like. Her grades are excellent, and I’ve found records of literally so many charities I’m not gonna bother listing them.” Bruce could almost hear Tim shrug, “She’s clean, Bats.”

Damian rolled his eyes, “You said she took them down with a yo-yo, Red. That’s not a standard weapon.”

“There’s records of her enrolling in gymnastics several years back; it’s probably a skill she picked up back then; maybe from the ribbon dancing? I’ll see if I can find anything else.”

“Red, just remember,” Everyone paused at the tone of Bruce’s voice, “This is not a malicious search; she saved Mar’i’s life; I don’t want to make problems for the girl.”

“Got it, Bats.”

Batman turned to Robin, and Damian sighed.

“Let me guess, stake out her hotel, make sure she stays safe?”

Batman nodded, “She managed to stall Joker and his goons long enough for us to get there, and she put her life on the line for Mar’i. The story’s already broke the news, along with her face and name. Harley and Ivy won’t give us any problems with this, but Joker has been working on something with Scarecrow for the last couple of months, and I don’t think he’s going to appreciate the hiccup in their plan.” Damian sighed, while Jason cackled, elbowing him in the ribs.

“Oh wah, Demon spawn, you get to go protect a cute girl for awhile; who knows, maybe you’ll get a date.”

Tim snorted over the comm line before he started laughing, and Damian flushed, his cheeks pinkening a bit.

“Go die, Hood.”

“Already did that, thanks, but no.”

With one last glare sent Jason’s way, Robin walked over to the edge of the building, preparing to make his way back to the hotel they’d seen the girl enter; then Jason just had to speak again.

“Oh yeah, did you see she was wearing your merch?”

Father probably wouldn’t let him kill Jason, right?

….

It didn’t stop him from trying.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Oh my god, Mari, you made it onto the news!” Chloe laughed as she lowered the volume on the broadcast. The cameraman had gotten a good shot of when Marinette had sprinted out of the park, and as she was speaking to the various people who had come up to her; though they mostly replayed her shaking Batman’s hand as he spoke to her.

“Tonight, the attempted kidnapping of Bruce Wayne’s granddaughter was thwarted by a passing teenager from Paris by the name of Marinette Dupain-Cheng, who managed to stall the Joker until Batman could arrive, while protecting miss Mar’i Grayson. This is not the first time the Joker has gone after a member of the Wayne family…”

Marinette groaned and flopped on the couch, covering her eyes with her hands.

“God, turn it off please, Chlo. It was mortifying explaining this to Mme. Bustier without having to hear more of it.” Chloe rolled her eyes, but turned it off anyway. They were lounging in the shared space of their suite, curtains thrown wide to provide a good view of the skyline as the sun set. Tikki, Pollen, and Kaalki were all sitting on the coffee table munching on their respective treats. Tikki flew up, hovering over Marinette where she lay on the couch.

“You were amazing Marinette! I was blown away!” Kaalki nodded as she swallowed a sugar cube, and then her face widened into a grin.

“That’s right, Mari! Your civilian side is super strong just like Ladybug is!” Marinette moved her hands, offering both kwami a smile.

“Thanks you two.” Chloe rolled her eyes, and plopped harshly on the couch next to Marinette.

“I’m glad you’re ok, Mari-bear. I wish I could’ve seen you in action.”

Marinette thought back to how she felt when she heard the Joker laugh, when he was pointing that gun at her. Knowing that without her, Mar’i could be killed, or worse yet.

“Chloe, I’m sorry, but I’m… I’m so glad you weren’t there.” She wasn’t going to cry again, damnit, she was nearly eighteen, but she still felt her throat close up at the force of her emotions, “The Joker is nothing like Hawkmoth, Chlo; he’s not even like the akuma we deal with. He’s in a category far removed from us. I got in a lucky shot because he hesitated.”

Chloe raised an eyebrow, and turned herself on the couch so she was facing Marinette, “What do you mean, Mari?”

Mari swallowed as she sat up, turning herself to the side so she was mostly facing Chloe as well.

“He… He asked me if I was so willing to die for her. And I didn’t even hesitate. I think it threw him off, because he just stared at me; it gave me the opening I needed to use my yo-yo.” She was starting to tremble, Chloe noticed, “I… I was so scared, Chloe. He was after that little girl. I couldn’t let him get his hands on her, I’ve heard about the things he’s done, and I couldn’t let that happen to a child.”

Chloe reached over, and gripped Marinette’s hand in hers, a look of concern on her face.

“That’s not all of it though… is it?”

Marinette shook her head, “I… I was so ready, Chloe; to accept that I was going to die. I forgot that I wanted to live until I saw that opening.” Marinette soon found herself buried in the cloth of Chloe’s sleep top, and she felt the hugs of the three kwamis too.

“Take a deep breath, Mari. You’re here. You lived, and so did the little girl. You did amazing, but not even you can be strong all the time. You can be upset while you’re here, Hawkmoth can’t get us.” Chloe tightened her hold on the girl as she finally cried her heart out; she’d been fighting it so much, for so many years. There was just… so much she’d repressed.

And Chloe held her through all of it.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Robin was many things. To his brothers, a nuisance, demon spawn Jason called him; to Gotham, he was the stoic boy wonder, both in costume and out. Damian Wayne was generally a cold young man, uncaring for most of the people outside of his own family for a long time. Yes, he cared about the innocents of Gotham as Robin, but as Damian? That was more difficult.

Yet as he sat concealed on the roof across from this girl’s - Marinette’s - hotel room, he felt an odd kind of weight settle in his gut. He couldn’t really read lips or hear anything from this distance, but he could tell she was crying. For some reason, it discomfited him. It was like a longing he’d never felt before, and it was very unusual for him.

And that wasn’t even mentioning the three strange creatures that were flying about the room.

This girl was… odd. Tim had said she was nearly eighteen, so she wasn’t much younger than him, but she was so… expressive. When she’d been talking to Batman, she’d clearly been anxious, but Damian had noticed her constantly sneaking glances towards Mar’i; like she was taking precautions. The girl obviously knew how to fight, as she’d been able to take down Joker’s thugs without taking a single hit.

That was honestly the weirdest part, he thought.

She’d come out without a scratch on her or Mar’i, both of them completely unscathed.

And then Tim had sent him the video he’d grabbed from the cameras, and Damian still couldn’t get it out of his head.

“She’s got some fight in her then! How interesting! And a foreigner too? So fearless!” Marinette let the yo-yo swing from her hand, swinging next to her leg, as he pointed the gun at her. She felt Mar’i grip her pants tighter with a small gasp. Joker’s grin grew, “But are you so willing to die for her?”

Marinette snarled, “Of course I am!”

When Tim had said it was like she was two different people, he hadn’t been kidding; and though at first, Damian had felt suspicious, now that he was observing her more naturally, it was rather obvious that the young woman had some self esteem issues. He’d seen the confidence in her during the video, but around so many people, it had gone out as easily as a candle. Which honestly, was a true shame.

Damian watched as another girl was let into the room by the blonde; this one had short, cropped pink hair. She looked like she’d get along with Beast Boy pretty well, a thought that made him grimace. The pink one crouched in front of Marinette, and even as far away as he was, he could see the concern on her face as her friends talked her through what he guessed may be a panic attack; but he had noticed that once the new girl had come, the three floating… things had scampered away, and out of sight. So she was keeping secrets then.

He sat there for a couple hours, watching the three girls as they spoke, and finally Marinette calmed down. He was just about to settle in for more observations when he noticed a shadow drop onto Marinette’s side of the balcony; before he could move though, he heard another body land behind him, and Damian came up swinging.

“Whoa there, demon spawn, it’s just us.” Jason dodged his hit gracefully, and Damian snarled.

“Damnit, Hood, don’t sneak up on me. And who’s on her balcony?” Jason sat on the edge of the building Damian had once occupied, and nodded towards the hotel.

“Don’t worry, it’s just Red. He’s setting up a listening device since we knew you wouldn’t be able to hear anything; Grayson is wanting us to take no chances with her safety.” Damian couldn’t fault his older brother’s logic; the girl hadsaved his daughter. Soon, Red Robin landed beside them, and took up a seat, pulling a speaker from his belt. Damian raised an eyebrow.

“Why the listening device now?” Tim shrugged, accepting the bag of chips Jason handed him.

“Bruce wanted to know if she’d tell anyone how she took the Joker down. We found a couple leads, but we don’t wanna push her too far.” Damian thought back to the three creatures he’d witnessed, but decided that was not his business to share. Besides, if his brothers lingered long enough, they’d see them themselves. So with a sigh, Damian sat back down next to Red Robin, and grabbed a handful of chips.

And they listened.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

“I CANNOT BELIEVE that asshole!” Alix shouted as she paced the floor. She whirled back to face Chloe, who had one of her arms around Marinette as the girl leaned into her, “You’re telling me Agreste and you dated for two FUCKING YEARS and he wouldn’t even let anyone know!!? What the FUCK!” Marinette nodded, while Chloe frowned.

“Keep your voice down, Alix, we’re not telling you so you can tell the whole hotel.” Chloe said while she rubbed Mari’s arm in comfort. Marinette sighed, looking up at Alix.

“He… He didn’t want anyone to know because his father had told him to make sure he kept Lila happy in class. Chloe knew, she was the only one I told. He-It-I mean, it was fine for awhile-.” Alix crouched in front of Marinette’s knees, and took hold of her hands, giving her a compassionate, but serious look.

“Marinette, no,” She said, “It’s not fine. For two years, he let Lila hang off of him, kiss him, and generally torture you during school, only to, what? Come and comfort you afterwards?” Hesitantly, Marinette nodded, and Alix swore steam was going to come out of her ears. “Marinette, when someone loves you, they love you all the time, not just when it’s convenient for them.” Alix managed a rueful smile, “It’s too bad you’re straight, or I’d totally take you out and show you how you deserve to be treated.” It worked, and Alix smiled as Marinette laughed, rubbing at her eyes. Chloe scoffed.

“Get in line, Alix; if any woman is taking my Mari-bear out, it’ll be me, thank you.” Alix gave her a grin, winking at the blonde and Chloe laughed.

“You can come too, Chlo. We’ll take our girl out and treat her special.” Alix looked back at Mari who was still laughing, and Alix softened a bit, “I know there are things you still can’t tell me, DC, and that’s ok. I’ve nearly got Kim and Max seeing reason finally. It’s gotten easier now that I just google whatever Lila says, and show it to them.” Her grin was bitter as she shook her smartphone for emphasis, “I’m sorry for how everyone’s been treating you these last few years. It’s like they’re just letting themselves be blinded by that little skank.” Alix wouldn’t lie, she was furious with the rest of their class for just letting these things happen; it was a testament to how exhausted Mari was that she didn’t even reprimand Alix on her words.

Marinette squeezed Alix’s hands, and she looked up at her. Marinette gave her a smile.

“Thank you Alix, but you don’t have to, you know. We’re almost done with school, and then we’ll be off to university. It doesn’t matter that much anymore.” Alix frowned.

“Marinette, you deserve to have the truth known. I don’t really care if they wanted to go their whole lives believing that witch, but it’s hurting you. You were always there for us, hell, you still keep spare clothes for all of them in case they need them! You deserve to have your good name cleared.”

Marinette smiled, but it was sad, and Alix wanted to rage against the world at the sight of it; her friend deserved nothing but the best, and she had been treated so poorly for so long. Alix had learned it didn’t matter if you spoke out, told Lila and Alya what they were doing was wrong; telling Madame Bustier didn’t do anything. Everyone just ignored it, unless they were actively participating.

“Alix, I have you and Chloe, and yeah, it would be nice to be friends with Kim and Max again; but I’m used to this by now. It’s… It’s been 4 years, and while the first one was… rocky, to say the least…” Marinette shared a grimace with Chloe, whose frown deepened at the memory, before she looked back at Alix, “I’ve gotten stronger for it. And if it hadn’t been for Lila, Chloe and I may never have become such good friends, and for that alone, I’m grateful to her.”

Alix grit her teeth as tears welled in her eyes, “But Mari! Alya has hit you! Adrien did nothing! They’ve ruined your sketchbooks, trashed your site, and tried to sabotage your university applications! How could you possibly be ok with any of that?!” Alix was surprised when Marinette’s eyes narrowed.

“I’m not, Alix. It hurt every single time. But what’s done is done, there’s no changing that, and there’s no going back. I can only keep moving forward.” Marinette sighed, giving her a pleased smile, “And I’m not alone, I never am. I have two of the most amazing, trustworthy friends I could ever have at my side, and an invitation to see one of Gotham’s most outstanding universities. Things haven’t been good, or fun, but they won’t stay that way.”

Alix stared at her in shock, and the tears rolled down her face while she hung her head, “We don’t deserve you, Marinette… I’m sorry.” Marinette pulled her up to the couch, and pulled her closer to herself and Chloe.

“Don’t be sorry, Alix. You and Chloe have stuck with me through it all; you’ve spoken out against Lila to defend me countless times. You don’t have anything to apologize for.”

Next to her, Chloe snorted, “Except for that t shirt, oh my god, where did you even find that horrendous thing?” Alix laughed, and gave Chloe the finger, which caused the blonde to huff.

“Rude.” But Chloe was smiling, and Marinette finally felt peace settle in her heart. Soon, she’d be gone from Lila for good, and everything would be nothing more than just a distant memory. She was fine; she was in a much better place than she used to be, even with her small slip up tonight in the park.

They were going to be ok.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“I don’t know french, what are they saying?”

Damian had a scowl on his face as they listened, but Jason had noticed how Tim had frozen; his two brothers were the ones who spoke french, damnit, why weren’t they translating? Finally Tim moved, and he buried his face in his hands.

“We shouldn’t have heard this…” Tim said softly, and now Hood was looking between the hotel, and Red Robin in concern. With a sigh, Tim raised his head, staring at the girls in the hotel room who were laughing now. “From what I can infer based on their conversation, Marinette is being bullied, and ignored by most of her class. Based on what these girls are saying, two girls, Lila and Alya, have been terrorizing her in class for - four years, I think they said? Not even her boyfriend would let anyone know they were dating, and he just stood by when this Alya girl hit her.”

Damian’s scowl deepened, and his hands clenched at his side, but Tim wasn’t done.

“And he’d go and comfort her after school, but the only one who knew is the blonde one there, Chloe. Apparently he’d let this Lila girl hang on him during school, and kiss him and junk. These girls have shredded her sketchbooks, trashed her site - whatever that means-, and tried to sabotage her university applications.”

Jason whistled low, “Damn, that’s harsh.” Hood frowned as he looked at the girls having a good time despite the heavy conversation they’d just had. She didn’t seem like the type of girl who deserved all that animosity. “How are we gonna help then, Red?”

The three of them paused as their comms crackled to life, and Bruce’s voice came over the line.

“I’ll take care of it. Come on home; Nightwing will take watch the rest of the night.” Damian watched as Chloe whacked Alix with one of the couch cushions, and an all out war broke out between the girls.

Next to him, Tim sighed, “Got it, Bats. Coming home.”

Jason turned first, and Tim lingered for a moment longer, but Damian was still staring at the girl. She was laughing as she beat her friend over the head with a pillow, the pink one - Alix - retaliating instantly. She looked… happy.

“Robin? You coming?” Damian nodded, and finally he turned away.

“Yeah, let’s go.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

@uGH_WHYME

OH MY GOD GUYS did you see the girl on the news???                                

Looks like there could be a new Wayne! #onlyinGotham

#darkhair #blueeyes #mustbeaWayne #gothamites

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter Text

Marinette awoke to the frantic ringing of her phone, and she groggily reached over and answered it. She’d stayed up late, talking to her parents, reassuring them she was ok; her mother had been furious, but Marinette had assured her it hadn’t really been Madame Bustier’s fault.

Marinette yawned as she put the phone to her ear, “H-hello…?”

“Marinette! Get down here now! They’re trying to leave you!”

At the sound of Chloe’s voice, Marinette shot up out of bed, “What!”

“That’s what I said! Lila fed Mme. Bustier some cock and bull story about you not feeling well after the ‘drama’ last night! I tried telling her, but she won’t listen! She won’t let me off this damn bus!” Marinette flung herself out of bed, nearly tripping over her own two feet.

“I’m on my way, Chloe!”

“Hurry! I can’t stall these idiots forever!”

Chloe hung up, and Marinette threw open her suitcase, digging through her clothes. Baggy jeans, with her new shoes, and an off the shoulder pink crop top were thrown on haphazardly, and then Tikki was there, holding her new Robin hoodie.

“Here, Marinette!” Marinette smiled, thanking Tikki before she was pulling it on, and grabbing her purse. She stuffed her phone in quickly, and then opened it up to let Tikki and Kaalki zip in. She zipped her bag up quickly, grabbed her key card, and was running for the stairs; she didn’t have time to wait for the elevator.

She hit the lobby running, sprinting for the door, but she could already see the bus leaving; she caught Chloe’s eyes through the door, seeing her through the bus window. She looked furious, and the last thing Marinette saw was her turn on their teacher, shouting at the top of her lungs.

By the time Marinette made it out the doors, the bus was already turning around a corner, and out of sight. She wanted to scream.

“Marinette?” She looked down through watery eyes to see Tikki peering at her from her purse. Her kwami looked distraught, “Are you ok?” Marinette took a deep breath, and wiped her eyes.

“No, I’m not. I can’t believe they would do this…” She sighed, adjusting her bag, “I’ll just walk I guess…”

Wayne Tower couldn’t be too far, right? She started walking, heading the same direction as the bus, making sure to make space for any other pedestrians. The streets were crowded this early in the morning, with many people on their way to work, and she had to dodge several people who were too busy staring at their phones to pay attention.

She was so tired. Tired of all this pettiness, and she didn’t like how angry it made her. She hated being angry more than she hated being upset. Anger took so much energy to maintain, but sadness could just be felt, and then it would pass; anger clung to her mind like cobwebs. Small, but there; always there. Marinette sighed as she turned the corner the bus had disappeared behind.

And promptly yelped when she ran face first into someone.

She stumbled back, eyes shut tight, and tripped over her own two feet. Marinette braced for the impact of the concrete, but was shocked when an arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her forward. She was met with brilliant green eyes, and dark hair when she finally looked up. The young man stared down at her in slight shock, but he smiled a bit when she looked at him. Her heart thudded dangerously in her chest, and shocks danced across her back where his hand was braced. Wait, he was saying something! Pay attention!!

“Are you alright?”

Marinette nodded, not trusting her voice as he pulled her back up, straightening her. Her face flushed.

“Uh, th-thank you, sir.” His smile grew just a bit, as he held her hand and brought it up to his lips, kissing it softly.  

“It’s not a problem. It’s the least I can do for the woman who saved my niece yesterday.”

Marinette’s eyes grew wide, and her blush escalated to her ears, “You’re Mar’i’s uncle?” Well, she could see the resembelance at least.

He lowered her hand, and nodded, “Damian Wayne, at your service, miss Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Thank you for protecting Mar’i yesterday.” She waved her hand.

“P-please, you really don’t have to thank me! It was no problem at all!” Damian observed her for a moment before he nodded.

“If that’s what you wish, miss Marinette.”

“Please, just Marinette is fine! We’re nearly the same age, it looks like, heh.” She rubbed the back of her neck, and his smile grew a bit teasing; she was so easily flustered.

It was cute.

He quickly noticed though… That she was completely alone in the street.

His smile grew tense.

“If I may, Marinette… I thought you were here on a trip with your school. Where’s your class?”

Marinette paused; because holy shit, she was talking to the youngest son of Bruce fucking Wayne, the sponsor for this whole trip, and he was asking where her class was. She chewed her lip for a moment, before she finally sighed. She couldn’t lie; that wouldn’t be right.

“They… left me behind.”

Damian blinked, “What?” he asked flatly. Marinette flinched, chancing a glance up at him.

“My friend Chloe called me, telling me the class was trying to leave me behind. One of my classmates told our teacher that I wanted to stay in my room after… yesterday. Chloe couldn’t stall them much longer, and I tried to catch up.” She sighed, gripping the strap on her purse tighter, “I made it to the lobby in time to see the bus pull away.”

Damian scowled, “Forgive me, but your teacher sounds like an idiot.”

Marinette snorted, and then covered her mouth, sneaking a bashful glance at him; it made his scowl fall, and he smiled.

“Where is your class going right now, Marinette?” She rubbed the back of her neck, averting her eyes.

“Th-they’re uh, actually heading to Wayne Tower…” Damian couldn’t help but laugh at the irony, and Marinette stared up at him in slight awe. When she’d researched Gotham, she had of course read up on the family that was sponsoring her school’s trip. She knew Bruce Wayne had several children, but the only one she consistently found mention of was Damian Wayne; and it seemed he wasn’t nearly as much the Ice Prince as everyone thought he was.

Because my god, he was gorgeous when he laughed.

He gave her a grin, and offered her his arm, and Marinette snapped out of her daze.

“Well, it’s quite the walk, Marinette. Would you let me give you a ride?” Marinette stared at him, looking from him to his offered arm; and as she thought about it, she realized… She felt pretty comfortable around this guy.

She smiled, linking her arm with his, “I think I’d really appreciate that, Damian; thank you.”

Damian returned her smile with surprising ease, “The pleasure is mine, angel.”

~~~~~~~~~~

‘Why did you do that you imbecile! Who kisses a girl’s hand on the street like that!! Augh!!’

Damian bit his lip as he got in his car, Marinette secured in the passenger seat. He couldn’t believe what had come over him! He’d never reacted like that to a woman before. And then he called her angel! He snuck a glance at her to see her texting on her phone, before she smiled, and put it away; he averted his eyes in time for her to look over at him.

“Thank you so much for this, Damian, I mean it.” She gave him a smile, and Damian cursed how his pulse quickened; he still returned her smile though. It felt almost criminal not to.

“It’s no problem. I was going to head that way eventually.”

Marinette’s smile turned playful, “Oh? What was the first order of business for you today, dear sir?” Damian snickered at her tone of voice, before he actually remembered why he’d been there; though he had to admit, her accent was adorable.

“Funny enough, I was coming to meet your class at your hotel.” He retrieved an envelope from the interior lining of his jacket, and held it out to her, “Father asked me to bring you this.”

Marinette took the envelope with wide eyes, and Damian continued speaking as he started the car, and he pulled out into traffic.

“Your classes’ schedule didn’t have you leaving until 10 A.M., so I thought I had plenty of time to arrive; imagine my surprise, running into you.” Marinette offered him a sheepish grimace.

“Sorry about that. There are a couple students in my class who… prefer things done their way.” Damian nodded, an amused smirk on his face.

“I’ve noticed.” He grinned a bit, glancing at her, “Nice hoodie by the way. I didn’t know you guys knew about the Bat pack in France.” Marinette grinned, glancing down at her new jacket.

“There’s actually not a whole lot of information on anyone besides Batman, but I have a lot of respect for his work, and how he cares for the villains he fights,” Giving him a wink, Marinette said, “But Robin’s colors suit me better, and based on the videos I’ve seen, he’s an excellent fighter.” She sighed, leaning back in the seat with an almost wistful look on her face, “I would kill for a sparring partner like that.”

Valiantly fighting his embarrassment, Damian cleared his throat, “You like martial arts?”

Marinette nodded, “Yeah. I started doing it so I could protect myself from the akuma at home, and then I found that, well, I really liked it? It’s invigorating, and it helped me quite a bit with my confidence. I started gymnastics a bit after that, just to help with my flexibility and agility.” She grinned, shrugging her shoulder a bit, “It’s been a great time.”

“Well, why don’t you have a sparring partner?” Marinette sighed.

“I used to, but…” Marinette bit her lip, and Damian saw her glance at him, like she was considering something before she finally huffed, “Well, he-he kept… asking me out. It didn’t matter if I told him no, or not, he just kept asking. And it was fine at first, you know, we were only 13, it was funny. And then…” Her hands tightened on her bag, “and then one day, it wasn’t. I had a boyfriend, Adrien; we were only 14 at the time, but god… God, I loved him.” Damian couldn’t help but frown at the bitter way she said it, before she laughed a bit, “I wasn’t very smart, back then. But my partner, when I told him I was dating someone, he just lost it, started going on and on about how I was leading him on.”

She sighed again, this time a deeper, more tired kind of sound, and Damian hated the misery in it.

“We don’t really hang out that much anymore, except for when we need to.” Marinette turned and looked out the window, watching the people go by as they drove, “And sometimes, I feel guilty that I’m happy about it. I’m glad that I don’t have to see him unless it’s absolutely necessary. I just spar with my maman when she’s free, but she’s not as enthusiastic about it as she used to be; it hurts her more now.”

She jumped when Damian reached over, and gently held one of her hands in one of his; she looked at him, but he was staring at the road.

“If you’re so willing, I’ll spar with you, angel. I’ve got quite the history in martial arts, so I should last a while before you put me in the dirt.” He grinned, glancing at her, and Marinette couldn’t help but laugh. Damian stopped at a stop light, glad he got to look at her like this.

She was beautiful when she laughed, oh god.

If he wasn’t careful, she’d hear his heart trying to break through his ribs.

He gestured to the envelope in her hands, “You should go ahead and open that.” He turned his attention back to the road as the light turned green, and Damian heard her tear the envelope gently, careful of any trash. After a moment, she gasped.

“What!”

Damian couldn’t help but laugh at the shocked, incredulous sound of her voice, and she turned to look at him, a flush high on her cheeks.

“Did you know?!”

Damian slowly stopped laughing after a moment, grinning as he pulled to a stop in front of Wayne Enterprises. He looked at her, “Did I know my father was going to invite you to dinner at the manor tonight?” His grin turned teasing, and he shrugged a shoulder, “Maybe. Now, let’s go find your class, angel.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Chloe and Alix were waiting for her when they walked through the doors of Wayne Enterprise, or Wayne Tower as some of the locals called it. Chloe reached her first, wrapping her in a tight hug, while Alix hung back.  

“Oh thank god! I thought we’d lose you for good in this damn city!” Chloe pulled back, checking her friend over from head to toe, while Marinette laughed.

“Chloe, I’m fine; I made a friend, the one I texted you about and he helped me get here.” That made the blonde pause, and Damian froze as her gaze swivelled to him. She gave him a shrewd once over as her eyes narrowed.

“What’s your name?” Damian smiled, and held out his hand.

“Damian. You must be Chloe. Marinette told me you’re her best friend.”

Chloe gave him a cheeky grin, and took his hand, shaking it, “No last name?”

Marinette pursed her lips, “About that, Chloe…” She gestured her friend to come closer, and once Chloe leaned over to her, Marinette whispered in her ear, “This is Damian Wayne, Chloe. He’s the youngest son of Bruce Wayne.”

Marinette watched as Chloe’s eyelids fell, and a broad smile spread over her face; her eyes slid over to the rest of the class, a fiendish twinkle in her eye. Damian nearly took a step back at the look on the girls face, and Marinette looked properly concerned.

“You don’t say~….” Chloe drawled, her smile devious; Marinette swore she could see her hair curling into horns. With a hum far too cheery, Chloe looped Marinette’s arm with Damian’s before looping her own through Marinette’s other side.

“Let’s go greet everyone shall we, Mari-bear? Oh, and Damian dear?” Damian raised a brow, and promptly paled at the smile Chloe gave him, “Say nothing about your last name, got it?”

He nodded, “Yes, ma’am.” Marinette blushed, while Chloe looked at her with a pleased smile.

“Ok, I like him; good find, DC~.” So saying, Chloe promptly lead the charge, so to speak. The three of them walked up to where Madame Bustier was speaking with-

Damian groaned, right as Dick looked over and saw him, and by association, Marinette and Chloe. The look of utter glee on his older brother’s face would haunt him for days to come, he was sure. The teacher noticed them a moment later.

“Marinette, there you are! Lila told me you didn’t want to join us today.”

Damian felt Marinette’s whole body tense, and because he was looking at her, he saw her eyes narrow in rage. He felt a little bad at how quickly the heat rushed to his cheeks.

“Mme. Bustier, I never said anything like that, and if that had been what I wanted to do, I would’ve told you directly when I told you what happened before curfew last night.”

Damian felt himself straighten at her tone of voice; this wasn’t the first time she’d had this conversation, was it? He paused for a moment though.

Because there it was.

That confidence from the surveillance camera, displayed before him.

God, her eyes were so blue, he could stare at them for ages…

And promptly realized he was doing just that, and looked away.

‘Pull yourself together, damnit! You are smooth! And don’t let them walk all over her!’ He glanced back at her as her teacher responded to her in french, ‘Not that she needs my help, because wow, she’s pretty when she’s mad.’

Damian frowned when a new voice joined the conversation.

“I-I’m so sorry, Marinette, I thought you meant it when you said you wished you could sleep all day. I wouldn’t have told Mme. Bustier otherwise…”  He looked at a brunette wearing orange as she stepped over, tears running down her face. Damian raised a brow at the act; they weren’t actually buying this were they? One look around at most of the class, and it was obvious that yes, yes they were.

Marinette gave Lila a flat look, “I didn’t even talk to you yesterday, Lila; Chloe did. I generally try to not talk to you.” The girl’s cries grew in volume, and Madame Bustier gave Marinette a look, but before she could say anything, Dick intervened.

Clapping, he looked around at the gathered students, “Now that everyone’s here, let’s begin the tour! Right this way guys!” He winked at Marinette as he walked away, starting the tour. Several of the students gave Marinette a dirty look as they walked away, following Dick; two boys slowed, sharing a look with Alix. The pink haired girl simply nodded, and they went ahead.

Marinette sighed as she followed at a more sedate pace, keeping several feet between them and the class. The three of them kept their arms linked while they walked, and Alix skated up next Chloe.

“Are you ok?” Marinette glanced over at Chloe as she asked, and sighed, looking ahead of them at the backs of her classmates. Madame Bustier was walking with Lila consoling the girl as she ’cried’.

“As good as I can be, I guess.”

Chloe looked to her left as Alix nudged her, and the pinkette nodded her head to a nearby bench.

“Hey, Chlo, can we talk real quick?” The small group came to a slow stop, and Chloe stared at Alix for a moment, before she finally sighed rather dramatically.

“I gueeessss~….” Chloe turned and looked at Damian, and he had to remind himself that he regularly fought people much more terrifying than Marinette’s best friend.

It did little to reassure him.

“Damian, dear, can I trust you with my girl here?”

He nodded, glancing at the back of the class as they continued walking, “Without question.”

Damian met her eyes, and they stared at each other for a moment before Chloe slowly smiled; and unlike the one from before, Damian was surprised to see how genuine it was.

“Good. We’ll catch up soon,” Chloe waved her fingers at them, before wrapping her free arm with Alix’s, and then the two girls were walking away, to a more private spot. Damian glanced down at Marinette at his side, and couldn’t help his snort of amusement. Marinette looked up at him, moving her hands from her face, her face aghast.

“Don’t laugh! I can’t believe she said that!” Her cheeks were so red, she was sure she was going to melt. Damian snickered as they resumed their pace, lagging further from the class now. He saw Dick glance at them from over the heads of the students; he ignored him with practiced ease, giving Marinette a grin.

“Sorry, angel, but at least you know she genuinely cares for you.” He noticed when she glanced away, a small smile on her face, and his stomach flipped pleasantly.

“I’m glad to have her in my life, Alix too. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Her voice didn’t waver, nor did her expression fall; but Damian felt that those words rang deeper than she meant them to. He unlinked their arms, Marinette looking at him in shock, before he laced their fingers together. Damian had never found it so easy to smile, and now, he could hardly stop.

“You are a strong young woman, Marinette. Your friends see what your class doesn’t, and personally…” His smile grew as her cheeks flushed even brighter, “I’d really like to get to know the person whom they love so much.” Damian watched as she bit her lip, giving him a small smile.

“You know, Damian, I think it’s a little funny.” He grinned, not noticing how he rubbed his thumb idly over hers; Marinette did, and she was almost shocked to find it comforting.  

“What’s that?”

The color in her cheeks dimmed, if only slightly, and he was startled when she gave him a cheeky grin, “Half this city is convinced you never smile, but you have one of the most gorgeous smiles I’ve ever seen.”

Damian would deny tripping over his own two feet until the day he died. He didn’t fall, of course not; he was Robin for heaven’s sake. But he did stumble, his cheeks bright red. He turned his head back towards her, ready to tease her, but he stopped.

Marinette was laughing.

Head thrown back, shoulders shaking, and her eyes closed in good humor.

‘Oh my god, I am smitten, send hELP!

Damian couldn’t stop the small smile on his face as her laughter died down to chuckles, watching her rub her eyes with her free hand. She gave him a grin when she recovered, and bumped her shoulder with his.

“What, can dish it, but can’t take it?” He scoffed, and Marinette giggled at the look he gave her.

“Hardly. I was just caught off guard, angel.” He grinned, looking at her, “You banter well, you know.” Marinette hummed, the tune playful.

“Suuurreee I do, I toootally believe you.” She laughed at the mock offense on his face.

“Ok Sass-master, it’s timeout for you. I’ll have to tell my father to cancel that dinner I guess…” Marinette laughed, knocking their shoulders again.

“Who exactly is the sassy one here again?” Damian shrugged.

“Why not both?” That sent Marinette into another peal of laughter.

Damian noticed several of her classmates looking back, almost in shock; but it was Dick who grabbed Damian’s attention first.

His older brother was staring at him, trying to continue his tour guide spiel and failing; Damian promptly rolled his eyes, and returned his attention to Marinette. If his brother wanted to let his mouth hang open and play bug catcher, well it wasn’t his problem. His grip on Marinette’s hand tightened gently as he watched her slowly calm down.

He… could almost get used to this.

~~~~~~~~~~

Deeming their location secure enough, Alix swivelled on her skates and turned to Chloe; which would’ve been great if the blonde was actually paying any attention. Instead Chloe was staring after Marinette and the guy she’d come in with. Alix sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose at the look of utter glee on Chloe’s face.

“Chloe, who is that guy? What is going on?” When Chloe looked at her, Alix could feel the vindictive satisfaction roll off of her in waves. She grinned.

“That, my dear Alix, is Damian Wayne.” Alix snorted, startling herself into laughter.

“No, no way! You’re shitting me!” Chloe simply nodded.

“Yep. The very same one that Lila has been boasting about dating all. DAY.” Alix grinned, putting her hands on her hips as she regarded Chloe with amusement.

“What are you planning, Chlo?”

Chloe turned back, her eyes finding the couple - and wouldn’t that be an interesting development~ -, and she watched as Marinette threw her head back and laughed. Chloe smiled, gently crossing her arms as Alix came up and leaned on her shoulder.

“I don’t think I’ll have to do much, Al. Lila will do my work for me, and she won’t even know it.” Chloe’s smile softened as she watched her friend tease one of the coldest boys in the world, “He makes her feel safe. And right now, that’s enough.” Alix nodded.

“It’s like they’ve known each other forever. Isn’t that a little fast?” Chloe made a so-so movement with her hand.

“Marinette knows her heart better than most of us. She has the best instincts out of anyone, especially since Lila happened.” Chloe sighed, before flipping her hair over her shoulder and giving Alix a smile. It was a smile full of razors.

“Besides, that boy is terrified of me already; I’m not sure what Mari-bear told him, but it was effective.” Alix laughed again, reaching up and ruffling Chloe’s hair. The blonde yelped and batted her hand away.

“Rude!” Alix just kept laughing.

“So, just to clarify. Lila has been telling everyone she’s dating Damian Wayne, who is right there,“ she pointed at him, noticing how far away the class was getting, “and Marinette has no idea about this yet, does she?” Chloe shook her head, and Alix’s grin grew.

“So, we’re just gonna let those two be disgustingly adorable, and then when everyone finds out, it’ll be a solid strike to Lila’s little castle, right?” Chloe booped Alix on the nose, her smile devious.

“Exactly. Let’s go catch up, and watch our girl’s back.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

This was not how today was supposed to go.

Adrien grit his teeth as he heard Marinette laugh at something else that guy had said to her. He hadn’t heard her laugh like that in years, not even when they were together could he get her to laugh like she was now. Ignoring the fire raging in his gut, Adrien chanced a glance back at the pair.

She was staring up at this guy like he was a breath of fresh air, and she was drowning. The fire in him turned sour as Marinette flushed, swinging their hands between them.

She used to look at him like that. He wanted her to look at him like that, always.

Adrien turned away with a click of his tongue, stuffing his hands in his pockets. He was going to use this trip to win her back, one way or another. They were meant to be together, they both knew it. Ladybug had been nothing more than an infatuation, but Marinette? Sweet, adoring Marinette, who had constantly gone out of her way for him; bringing him food, and anything else he’d happened to mention. And he’d lost it all, just because she wanted to expose Lila; his miraculous, and the girl he’d loved.

A growl rumbled in his chest, startling Nino next to him. Adrien played it off with a cough, smiling at his friend and telling him he was fine.

He wasn’t fine; but he would be once Marinette was back at his side.

Where she belonged.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

@coffeetoffee
HOLY SHIT i just saw someone run into the Ice
Prince on the street, and he didn’t kill them??????
WHAT??????? #IcePrince #onlyinGotham
#DamianWayneCANsmile #WAIT #wheresmycoffee!!!?

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter Text

The tour was nice, and Damian pointed things out to her that Dick glossed over during his talk; but Marinette found herself fascinated with the architecture and layout of the building. So many twists and turns, and hiding spots; how could anyone ever find their way?

Damian shrugged, “Well, it’s meant to be a little confusing for people who aren’t used to being here. Makes it easier for the people who are here to hide in the event of a situation.” Marinette nodded, remembering how high the crime rate was in Gotham. She paused to regard a statue against the wall, releasing his hand, and Damian watched as she pulled a pocket sized sketchbook from her bag. Her sketch was done in under a minute, and he noticed her writing some things off to the side.

She offered him a sheepish smile after she zipped the book away into her bag once again.

“Sorry, inspiration strikes at the oddest times.” Damian simply smiled, and took her hand in his once again as they continued behind the class.

“That’s ok. What were you drawing?” Marinette nodded her head back towards the statue.

“That’s Joan of Arc. I like to design clothes, and seeing her made me think of the gown I want to make for the Gala at the end of the month.” Damian hummed.

“Ah, the Wayne Charity Gala, right? Father mentioned that he’d invited your school.” Marinette nodded, a wide smile on her face.

“Yep! I didn’t have anything at home that I thought was appropriate, so I decided I’d see what Gotham had to offer,” she shrugged a shoulder, her smile growing just a bit, “and I have to say, I haven’t been disappointed.” Damian hesitated for a moment, before he frowned slightly.

“Even after what happened yesterday?”

The smile on Marinette’s face froze, and Damian immediately regretted opening his dumb mouth, “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, angel. I’m sorry-”

“No, it’s ok.” Her grip on his hand tightened a bit, and the smile she gave him was sincere, “It was the first time I’ve had a proper gun pointed at me, so it was a bit horrifying. But, it’s not that unusual. Some of the akumas in Paris have been more deadly, but not quite so terrifying.”

Damian frowned, “I meant to ask earlier, but it didn’t seem like the right time; but what are akumas?” Marinette’s eyes grew wide as she looked at him, and she felt Tikki and Kaalki jolt in her purse.

“You mean you don’t know??” Seeing how alarmed she was, Damian grew concerned; but he still shook his head. Marinette blinked a few times, before she sighed.

“Well, it is only in Paris, I can’t say I’m surprised…” She looked back at him, and started, “Paris has its own problems. We deal with a supervillain named Hawkmoth, and his accomplice Mayura. Hawkmoth uses akuma, little dark butterflies, to control people when they’re having a bad day.” She paused, “And it doesn’t have to be a major negative emotion. A baby was akumatized because he had a nightmare. Likewise, a grieving mother was akumatized when she thought her child died in a car accident,” Damian could feel the tension running through her arms as she continued on, “A girl flooded Paris, killing millions, and it was Hawkmoth who had her do it. He preys on you when you’re weak, saying whatever it is you want to hear to get you.” Damian stared at her in shock.

“How does the world not know about this, Marinette? Paris flooding, millions dead? It should’ve been all over the news.” Marinette smiled, but it was brittle.

“That would be Ladybug. Paris has its own heroes, Ladybug, Cha-Hornet, Ryuuko, and Viperion. At first, four years ago, it was only Ladybug and Chat Noir against Hawkmoth, but the others were recruited with time. You see, Ladybug can undo any damage done with her Miraculous Cure. Flooded Paris? Fixed. Hundreds of thousands dead? Fixed. She’s the embodiment of Creation while her partner, Chat, was Destruction.” Marinette shrugged, “We’ve all just learned to live with it. It’s why I have such a hard time expressing myself nowadays. We can’t be allowed to feel any of the negative things in our lives without being preyed on. It’s miserable at best, and agonizing at its worst.”

Damian was struck silent, staring at the girl next to him. Nearly a head shorter than him, and she was dealing with all of this as a civilian. No suit to help protect her at all. His mind wandered back to the three strange creatures he’d seen in her hotel room the previous night, but what could they be? He cleared his throat.

“Have you ever been… akumatized?” Marinette’s smile fell just a bit, and she looked forward towards the class, at Lila.

“…Not yet, no. I’ve had a few close calls over the years, and Hawkmoth has specifically targeted me a few times; but I have a support system that helps me keep my negative emotions under control.” She turned towards him, her smile growing just a bit, “It’ll be fine though; Ladybug’s really close to finding him finally.” Damian’s mouth tightened into a thin line, but he nodded.

“You have a lot of faith in her, angel.” A heavy aura fell over her shoulders, and he noticed her smile was a bit strained.

“You misunderstood me, I think. It’s not that I have faith in her exactly, but…” And there it was again, the fire in her blue bell eyes, “She cannot fail. If she fails, Paris dies. She has to win, or she…” Marinette looked away, her voice soft, “or she dies, and so does her family, her friends.”

Damian frowned, gently slowing to a stop, and before he stopped to consider his actions, Damian brought his free hand up, and cupped her cheek softly, turning her to look up at him. Her eyes were glassy, teeming with unshed tears.

“Angel, are you ok?”

Marinette took a deep breath, willing her voice to be steady, “I’m so sorry, I swear I’m not trying to dump this on you, after all you’re one of the first friends I’ve made in four years-” Damian’s eyes grew steely, and he glanced in her class’s direction, “but it-it’s so hard to not talk about it now that I’m in a place away from him; away from Hawkmoth. I-”

“Angel, please don’t apologize.” Looking up at him in surprise, Marinette stared at him, her lips parted slightly. Damian gave her a small smile, wiping away a trail of her tears with the pad of his thumb, “From what I’ve gathered, this man has been holding your city hostage for at least four years; that’s four years of pent up negativity. I won’t lie, I’m amazed at the amount of resilience and mental fortitude you have to possess to go through that, and still be, well…” His smile grew a bit, “you.”

The blood rushed to Marinette’s head so fast that she thought she’d faint, and she was just now noticing how intimate their position must look.

Just in time for someone to clear their throat.

Marinette yelped, clutching the hand Damian was cradling her face with, before she whirled to her right.

Chloe gave her a coy grin where she stood with her arms crossed, watching them. Alix lowered her phone, laughing as she skated over to Marinette. The pink haired girl wrapped an arm around her friend, a teasing grin on her lips.

“Looks like you guys are getting pretty chummy~.”

Marinette immediately started stammering, switching to french fluidly as she spoke to Alix quickly. Damian could catch bits and pieces, but he was busy staring at Chloe. Marinette’s best friend regarded him with surprisingly kind eyes, and after a moment she sighed, walking over. She passed behind Damian casually, but he felt her pat him on the shoulder.

“Don’t hurt her.”

Damian flushed brightly, opening his mouth and closing it again as Chloe circled around him to also tease Marinette; and Damian realized that while his right hand was no longer on her cheek, she was still clutching his left. Marinette’s cheeks were still bright red, and she was switching between looking at Alix, who rested her chin on Marinette’s shoulder with a devious smile; and Chloe, who was standing a bit off to the side, looking far too pleased with herself. Finally, Marinette sighed, and looked back at him, and Damian saw her cheeks brighten a little more while she rubbed the tears from her face.

“S-sorry about them, they just… get like that sometimes.” Chloe snorted off to the side, before giving her and Damian a grin.

“Of course we do, we have to make sure you get only the best, Mari-bear.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder as she began walking in the direction of the tour and their class. Alix gave Marinette a wink as she skated after the blonde, and Marinette groaned, her face falling towards the floor. Damian felt his lips twitch up into a small grin.

“Angel?”

Marinette shook her head, “Nope, I can’t, cannot look at you right now, or I am going to DIE. Is that what you want, Damian? You want your new friend to die of embarrassment? Because that is what it sounds like.” Between her rambling, and the overly dramatic way she was talking, Damian really couldn’t blame himself when he started laughing.

Her head whipped up at the sound, and Marinette watched his shoulders shake with the force of his laughter. Her blush faded a bit, but she smiled, a small, private little thing. He looked amazing when he laughed, and she hoped she could get him to do it more. Finally, Damian calmed down, and wiped at the tears that had gathered in his eyes.

Marinette pouted as he looked back at her, a grin on his face, “Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh, but…” He snorted, covering his mouth with his free hand, “I just didn’t expect that.” Marinette huffed, turning and following after Chloe, and Alix; he followed dutifully, still holding her hand. It was hardly noticed by them at this point.

“Well, look out, cause I am going to make sure to catch you off guard all the time then.” She turned to look at him, and when she smiled, Damian felt all the air leave the room. It felt like his world stopped, and his heart soared, “I love it when you laugh, Damian; so if I can see that, it’ll be worth it I think.”

How had he ever had the luck to run into such a remarkably sincere young woman like herself? She saves his niece her first day, fends off the Joker, and now she’s slipped past all of his carefully built walls like they were non-existent. He had never felt so comfortable, so at home with someone he really had no business feeling that for. And the intensity was alarming, said the rational side of Damian’s brain; but the other, the long ignored until just the last couple years… Well.

He was pining.

He was unaware of the similar turmoil rolling around in Marinette’s mind, her head and heart at complete odds with each other. Tikki had told her last night that due to being partners with Chat for so long, she would be overcome with love and affection for her real Black Cat when she found him; but right now, she wasn’t thinking about that conversation as Damian gave her the softest smile she’d seen yet. Her heart thundered in her chest wildly, but she didn’t feel overwhelmed.

“Thank you, angel.”

Dick was staring at him when they finally got closer to the tour once again, and Damian was sure his older brother had heard him laughing given the acoustics in the building. His eyes narrowed at his brother, and Dick continued to stare at him before he glanced at Marinette.

The grin that came across Dick’s face meant nothing but trouble for Damian, and the young man rolled his eyes, groaning. Marinette looked at him.

“Damian, are you ok?” He sighed.

“My idiot brother is going to make my life hell for the foreseeable future.” He grimaced, looking back at her, “Also, you’re probably going to have to deal with the rest of my idiot brothers at lunch. Please remember, they were dropped on their heads as children, and I bear no blood relation with any of them.” His deadpan delivery had her breaking out into shocked laughter, and Damian was thrilled he could make her so happy. His brothers constantly told him his sense of humor was awful, but at least Marinette appreciated it.

“Aww, now that hurts demon spawn.”

Damian tensed, and Marinette was already turning around; and looking up.

Whoa this dude was tall.

Damian groaned as he turned around, “Jason, why are you here?”

Marinette watched the man shrug, a grin on his face, “Well, to see my baby brother of course,” And then he was looking at Marinette, “And to meet your little girlfriend. Who knew you could laugh, demon spawn?”

Damian flushed, and Marinette felt her cheeks warm as well; but she still smiled, and held out her hand.

“Hi, I’m Marinette. It’s nice to meet you!” Jason’s grin grew, and Damian rolled his eyes while they shook hands.

“Jason Todd, it’s nice to meet you too, kiddo. Saw what you did on the news,” Damian tensed, glaring at his brother, “The families really grateful.” Marinette’s cheeks pinkened all over again, and she shook her head, looking only slightly uncomfortable.

“Really, it was nothing. I’m just glad I was able to keep her safe.” Jason shook his head, grinning still.

“I see now why your paper won your class this trip. It was a good read, and I can’t say I’m surprised at the kind of person you are.” Marinette’s eyes grew wide.

“You read my paper?” Jason nodded, tucking his hands in his pockets.

“We all did, pixie pop. You’re a good kid.” His grin grew snarky, and he nodded at Damian, “Figured I’d make sure he hadn’t kidnapped you.” Damian frowned, but Marinette laughed, covering her mouth.

“I-I promise he hasn’t kidnapped me, Mr. Todd. I’m really enjoying my time with him actually. He’s very funny.” Jason was staring at Marinette with glee before his gaze swivelled to Damian. Damian rolled his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Oh, he is, is he? Are you sure he didn’t pay you to say that, short stack?” Damian felt the atmosphere shift, and glanced up, finding Marinette glaring at Jason. Her tone was nothing but polite, cordial even, as she spoke, but the coolness of it…

“Don’t be rude, please. Damian has been nothing but kind, and helpful to me since we met. I don’t like what you’re implying.” Damian felt his jaw drop, while Jason’s grin just grew.

“Good answer, pixie pop.” Before Marinette could react, Jason reached out and ruffled her hair; she batted his hand away with a huff as he looked at Damian.

“She’ll be a good friend for you, demon spawn; don’t fuck it up.” Damian scoffed, looking at him unimpressed.

“I don’t need you to tell me that, Jason. I already know.”

“Mari-bear, is this guy bothering you?”

Marinette froze, and turned back around to see Chloe and Alix, who had noticed them stop. Chloe was staring at Jason with distaste, arms crossed. Jason held his hands up in surrender.

“Just came to make sure my kid brother is playing nice, I swear.” Chloe’s eyes widened in recognition as she looked the man up and down.

“You’re Jason Todd.” Jason looked surprised.

“You know me?” Chloe scoffed, rolling her eyes.

“I know you’re a delinquent with no fashion sense, yes.” Jason laughed, and now it was Marinette’s turn to sigh. Damian smirked a bit as she pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Oh god, here we go…” She mumbled, and Damian snorted, a chuckle falling from his lips. Jason’s mouth immediately closed, cutting off whatever retort he had; he stared at Damian, eyes wide.

“Holy shit, Grayson was right.” Damian’s face instantly fell into a scowl as he regarded Jason, who was looking for too pleased with the situation to be safe. His older brother looked back at Marinette.

“You’re coming to dinner tonight, right? Cause Alfred needs to see him laugh. He’s been trying for years and all he’s gotten have been amused huffs of air.” Marinette blushed, but she couldn’t help but laugh; Chloe looked at Marinette and arched an eyebrow.

“What dinner, Mari-bear?” Still chuckling, Marinette handed over the invitation from Damian’s father.

“S-sorry, Chlo, I still haven’t decided if I’m going yet.” Chloe’s eyes flicked over the paper quickly, her smile growing before she handed it back.

“Marinette, you have to go! It’s dinner at the Wayne Manor! I would lose credit as your best friend if you don’t go! Honestly!” Chloé rolled her eyes, and shared a commiserating look with Jason of all people, “I swear I raised her better than this. She’ll be ready by 7:30, I’ll make sure of it.”

Marinette laughed, batting at Chloe’s arm playfully, “Hey, since when were you my mom, Bee?” Chloé flipped her hair over her shoulder.

“No one can compare to Sabine, DC, you know that.” Jason laughed, shaking his head.

“You two are really close huh?” Alix snorted.

“That’s the understatement of the century. They go everywhere together, even-“

“The bathroom!” Everyone looked at Marinette, who was clutching her phone in her hand. She looked up at Chloe, eyes wide, and took Chloe’s hand. “I need to talk to Chloé about something super important, so we’ll be back!” And just like that, Marinette was hauling Chloe down the hallway and into the bathroom they’d passed. After a moment of staring after them, Jason and Damian both turned to Alix, who just shrugged.

“It happens all the time. Marinette has pretty bad anxiety, and Chloe usually helps her with it.” An alert from Alix’s phone had her eyes widening, and she scrambled to unlock it and pull up an app.

“No way! There’s an akuma on the Seine!” Jason and Damian watched as the rest of the class all got out their phones as multiple alerts began chiming, the students clamoring excitedly.

Damian and Jason leaned over, watching a livestream on Alix’s phone. A man stood on the Seine, trash swirling around his legs while the water thrashed violently.

“I am the Recycler! The Seine is tired of your trash Paris, and I will make sure to exact revenge in its honor!” 

Damian watched as the water of the river swelled, spilling over the walls. He felt sick as he watched people get caught up in the wave, people going under, and not resurfacing. Screams rang through the tiny speakers, echoing poorly around the hallway.

There was a red blur.

“Ladybug is here! And she’s brought Hornet with her!”

Frowning, Damian saw two young women drop down, insect themed wings beating behind them. One was dressed entirely in red, with sections of black from her hips to her knees, and wrapped around her ribs; she had to be Ladybug if the spots were any indication. Her partner, Hornet, was dressed mostly in a rusty kind of orange with black stripes and patches, with yellow accents; her hair was interesting, being fully black except for the yellow tip of her ponytail, and gods, it was long.

Damian watched as the two sprung into action, working together flawlessly. It was clear Hornet was the offensive, while Ladybug played more to defense and strategy. It was over in under five minutes, with Hornet grabbing a trash net and snapping it over her leg. The black butterfly that fluttered out was retrieved by Ladybug’s- Damian’s eyes widened.

Yo-yo.

Ladybug’s weapon of choice was a yo-yo.

All of the pieces fell into place as he watched Ladybug - Marinette - purify the butterfly, and send it on its way. He watched as she crouched next to the young man left in the place of the akuma; watched as her magic brought back all those he’d just seen die.

He expected name calling when the crowd gathered around the heroes and the victim. Damian was shocked when they all closed ranks and took turns calming the young man down. The camera came closer, coming up to Ladybug as she spoke with the victim in hushed tones; she noticed the camera, and looked over.

“Ladybug! What would you say to Hawkmoth should he be watching? It’s been nearly five years since the start of this!”

If Damian had doubted her identity before then, he certainly no longer could. Her eyes held the same fire he’d seen from her now three times, and it was far too recognizable paired with her dark hair and blue eyes. She took the microphone, staring into the camera.

“Paris is strong. We are united. And I would tell him to be afraid.” Her eyes narrowed, and her grip on the mic tightened, “I have a lead on your identity, little butterfly, and you will not hold us hostage much longer. The dawn is coming, and I am coming for you. Her voice sent chills down his spine, the sheer tenacity making his pulse spike; he couldn’t help but feel his cheeks warm.

Damian jumped as the class broke into cheers up the hallway, but he didn’t take his eyes off the video as Ladybug handed back the microphone. With a flick of her wings, she was gone, Hornet waving, and following closely behind her.

And if Marinette was Ladybug, then Hornet must be-.

Damian’s thoughts cut off as Marinette and Chloe came walking up, having left the bathroom; Damian had to commend them. Chloe had not a hair out of place, and Marinette’s red face could easily be explained away as an aftereffect of a panic attack. He should be looking at Jason, trying to find out if his brother has caught on, trying to figure out how they got to PARIS; but all Damian can do is stare at Marinette.

Who is smiling at him, a look so full of sincere trust and amusement. And she has been going through this for the last five years, running off at a moment’s notice to put her life on the line for the people of her city. Watching people she knows and loves, die, only to be brought back at the end of her battle.

Damian frowns as his heart aches, bringing up a hand to his chest. Warm fingers wrap around his other hand, and he glances over to find Marinette looking at him, an open expression of concern on her face.

“Damian? Are you ok?”

And Damian smiles. Because of course Ladybug is Marinette Dupain-Cheng; who else could it have possibly been?

“I’m fine, angel. How about you?”

Marinette jolts, her free hand falling to her purse as it twitched; violently. Her cheeks grew pink, so Damian pretended not to notice. Now that he was looking for it, she really wasn’t subtle.

“I-I’m fine, really! Chloe talked me through it.” Her smile was genuine, “I’m lucky to have her.” Marinette looked back at him, and Damian realized he still had his hand over his heart; she bit her lip, “Are you sure you’re ok? It looked like you were in pain.” Damian smirked a bit, and winked.

“I was struck by your beauty and couldn’t breathe, angel.”

Damian laughed a bit as Marinette’s face grew red quite quickly, and she smacked his arm with her free hand.

“You can’t just-! SAY things like that! Oh my god!” She was starting to giggle though, so Damian counted that as a win. Maybe he was better at this than he thought.

“Wow, I cannot believe you just said that Demon spawn.”

Damian sighed, a long drawn out exclamation, and his smile fell. He turned to see Jason grinning in glee, holding his phone up. Damian’s eyes narrowed.

“Jason, what. Are you doing?” Jason shrugged, lowering his phone and typing away at something real quick.

“Oh, you know, just getting Alfred proof you do have emotions.” Jason’s grin grew, “I’m sure he’ll love the video I got of you two.”

Damian rolled his eyes; in all honesty, he’d completely forgotten about Jason’s presence given the gravity of what he’d realized. Marinette was a fucking superhero. Ignoring whatever rambling nonsense Jason was now spewing, Damian casually turned, and guided Marinette away from his idiot brother who was exchanging words with Chloe and Alix. Admittedly, he was leading her towards his other idiot brother, but Dick was busy showing the class the cafeteria for lunch; and he was sure Marinette would be hungry.

“Sorry about him, angel; he’s a bit much at times. Are you hungry?” Marinette giggled, gripping his hand just a bit tighter.

“He seems fun, actually. I like him. And, yes, I’m starving.” She grimaced, holding her bag tighter, “I uh, skipped breakfast after all.” Damian’s eyes narrowed as he stared at her teacher.

That’s right, they’d left her behind.

He gave Marinette a smile while he got out his phone with his left hand, and sent his father a quick text.

“Well the cafeteria is outfitted with anything you could possibly want. Father makes sure his employees and guests are well taken care of.” Marinette smiled as they passed Dick, entering the cafeteria; she could hear Chloe and Alix talking behind them, likely with Jason still.

Eyes wide, Marinette looked around the cafeteria in awe. They had a full three course buffet, and the amount of staff milling about, checking the quality of the food, was astounding. Damian laughed a bit.

“He spares no expense.” Marinette nodded, letting Damian lead her to a starting place. She finally breathed.

“This is breathtaking for a cafeteria. And he doesn’t charge for it?” Damian shook his head while he handed her a plate.

“That’s right. Father thinks everyone deserves the right to good food. Everything not eaten is donated, and during the evenings on the weekends, the cafeteria is opened to the homeless.” Marinette looked around the cafeteria with a newfound respect for their sponsor.

“Your father sounds like a good man, Damian; it sounds like you respect him a lot.” Damian smiled, filling up his plate; when he turned, he found Marinette ready and waiting for him, her plate stacked nearly as tall as his. He smiled.

“He’s alright; don’t tell him I said that though.”

Marinette laughed while Damian led her over to a minimally populated table, and not shortly after they’d sat down did Chloe and Alix join, Jason conspicuously absent. Alix sat on Marinette’s left side, while Chloe sat across from the three of them. Alix grinned.

“Dude, this cafeteria is amazing. It’s got everything!” Chloé sighed as she had a bite of her honey baked salmon.

“That is delicious. Damian dear, what company does your father have staff the kitchen? I have to have this salmon at home.” Damian chuckled, cutting into his steak. He shrugged a shoulder.

“I don’t think he uses a company. As far as I know, the staff are all locals.”

There was a snort from down the table, and they all turned to see a young man not much older than him hunched over his laptop. Damian sighed.

“Hello, Tim. Glad to see you’re coherent today.” Tim looked over and held up the mug in his hand.

“Thank the coffee.” He nodded in greeting to the others while he took a sip. “Bruce would never let you oversee staffing; you’re too… you,” Damian frowned, listening to Marinette giggle, “but you are correct. All the staff in the building is local.”

Chloe pouted, looking at her salmon mournfully, “Well, damn.”

Marinette snorted, saying something to Chloe in French; but Damian felt himself get distracted when he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. He looked behind him to find Jason standing there.

“Hey, let’s talk kid.” Damian sighed, and when Marinette looked over, noticing Jason, Damian gave her a smile.

“I’ll be right back angel.” She nodded, returning his smile, before she turned back to the conversation with her friends, and apparently Tim now.

Jason and Damian walked a little ways away, closer to the wall, and out of hearing range from the class. Jason turned to him.

“What was going on in that broadcast? You were as confused as I was until they showed that girl in red.” Jason crossed his arms, “You figured something out.” Damian shrugged.

“It’s nothing.” Jason’s eyes narrowed.

“Oh yeah? So it has nothing to do with the fact you’re little girlfriend took the Joker down in the same manner as that chick in the video?” Damian frowned, but Jason wasn’t done, “You think she’s a superhero.”

“I don’t think, I know, Jason.” Damian cursed his big mouth as Jason grinned.

“And how do you know, brat? Cause there’s no way she told you.” Damian flushed, averting his eyes, and Jason laughed. With a huff, Damian glared at his brother.

“I recognized her, in the video. I saw the look in her eyes and knew, ok?” Jason’s grin softened just a bit, and he reached out, mussing Damian’s hair. The young man swatted at him, frowning, but Jason just laughed again.

“Careful, brat, or we’re gonna start thinking you’re falling for her.” Jason expected Damian to scoff, to dismiss the fact entirely; he didn’t expect the thoughtful look on his brother’s face as he glanced back towards Marinette.

“It’s too early for that, but… I definitely like her more than I should.” Damian frowned, “Normally I’d be suspicious, but not once has she been less than sincere with me.” All Jason could do was stare.

“Holy shit, you’re serious.” Damian turned back to his brother with a scowl.

“When have you ever known me to be any different?” Jason snorted.

“Today, right now in fact. If I’d insinuated yesterday that you were falling for a girl you’d just met, you’d have tried to take my head off,”

…He was still thinking about it anyway.

Oh, Jason was still talking. Huh.

“And now, you’re just casually accepting it as a possibility? You didn’t even laugh when you and Raven were together, and she kicked ass.” Damian frowned as Jason brought up his ex.

He and Raven had had an amicable breakup; after all, he just didn’t have the parts she was looking for, which she’d learned over the course of their relationship. Last he knew, Raven was searching for a girlfriend, and still liked to brag about how much more action she got than he did.

“Raven and I were very similar in many ways, Jason. I don’t share all that much in terms of hobbies with Marinette, and her outlook on things is… refreshing.” Jason pointed at him.

“Yesterday, you would’ve said she’s naive, and gullible.” Damian’s eyes narrowed.

“And I would’ve been wrong, Jason. What’s the point of this? I’m getting to know her like a human being, and you’re acting like I’ve lost my mind.” Jason threw his hands up in the air.

“That’s cause it’s a little weird! Usually you compile an entire dossier on someone before you even attempt to talk to them; but you decided to come see the class this morning based only off the information Tim got for us. That’s not like you, brat.” Damian went to reply, but Jason’s head rose sharply.

“Looks like we got a problem, kid.” Damian was already turning when he heard a commotion. He paused when he saw one of Marinette’s classmates, a blonde boy, with his hand wrapped tight around her arm, hauling her out of her chair.

Damian saw red.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Marinette watched Jason and Damian walk away for a moment before she turned back to Chloe.

“I hope he’s not in trouble…” Chloe scoffed, having another bite of her fish.

“Why would he be in trouble, DC?” Marinette shrugged, playing with her food.

“I don’t know, I’m just worried.” Down the table, Tim snorted.

“It’s more amazing actually.” The three girls peered down at him.

“What do you mean?” Alix asked around her sandwich. Tim shrugged.

“Damian is the youngest out of all of us, but he’s generally the coldest.” He looked at Marinette, and smiled, “We’ve seen him smile more around you than we’ve seen in the last 8 years he’s lived with us. Hell, you got him to laugh, and you’ve barely known him a day.” Tim chuckled, “That’s enough to warrant some kind of reward honestly. The family is just trying to adjust to this new reality where Damian is actually happy.”

Marinette flushed, “He’s been nothing but kind.” Tim laughed, nodding.

“Yeah, but that’s what’s weird. Something sets you apart from anyone else,” Tim grinned, pointing from her to Chloe and Alix, “You, and the people you care about. He wants to be kind to you. That’s a big deal when it comes to Damian.”

Chloe’s eyes lit up in recognition, “You’re Tim Drake, the third son, right?” Tim gave her a short laugh.

“Wow, I’m honored. Not many people realize it.” Chloe shrugged a shoulder.

“I’m rich, of course I know about other rich people. My father has been trying to partner with the French branch of Wayne Enterprises for way too long.” Marinette laughed, reaching for her drink to her right when someone’s hand wrapped around hers. She froze, looking over and up. Her heart was beating too fast, her hands getting clammy.

Adrien smiled down at her, his grip tightening ever so slightly over her hand.

“Hey, Mari can we talk?” Chloe looked about five seconds from throwing a fit, and Marinette couldn’t see Alix given that the girl was on her left. She stared at Adrien, seeing the clear expectation of her cooperation; it burned her up.

She took her hand out from under his, bringing it to her chest.

“No, we can’t. Leave me alone, Adrien.” Marinette turned away from him, heart beating in her ears. She closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing.

‘Calm down, it’s fine, you did it! He’ll leave-’

“Marinette, please, I really need to talk to you.” She tensed as he gripped her upper arm insistently.

Oh god, why wasn’t he leaving? She said no!

“I said, NO Adrien. Get away from me.” There, she said it again. He wouldn’t be so bold as Adrien, not with the class-

Marinette yelped as she felt herself get hauled to her feet, and out of her chair.

“Just for a minute, Mari-!” She scratched at where his hand held her arm, glaring at him. Her eyes were welling with tears.

“Let me GO, Adrien!” Chloe was over the table, three inch stilettos be damned, and Alix was already coming in behind him, having circled around. Chloe beat her to the mark, hitting Adrien across the cheek with a sharp hit as she leapt off the table, tackling him, but then Kim and Ivan were there too. Kim pulled Chloe off of Adrien, after getting a good hold on her; and Ivan pulled Adrien to his feet, looking at him in disgust. Alix came over to Marinette who was staring at the floor, trying to breathe, arms wrapped around herself. Alix put her hands on the girls cheeks, startled at how cold she was.

“Marinette, hey, DC, I need you to breathe with me ok. Shh, deep breaths.” Marinette shook her head, tears streaming down her face. She couldn’t, couldn’t breathe, oh god-

“Marinette?”

Marinette turned, Alix’s hands falling from her face, and then there was Damian. He took one of her hands, holding it tight, and Marinette grabbed the other one too, struggling to ground herself. Was he saying something?

“Angel, you need to breathe. You’re hyperventilating.” Oh. That’s why she felt fluttery. She nodded, closing her eyes, and for once, surrendered herself to her Ladybug senses; it would help her focus. Everything faded out, all the shouting around her, the voices, all the faces, until only Damian’s remained; she could hear his pulse if she tried hard enough, and Marinette focused on it, breathed with it. And when she opened her eyes, she gave him a tired smile.

“Thank you Damian.”

He smiled back at her, his thumb stroking her hand idly.

“Ivan, let go of me, damnit! Marinette, please, I just wanted to talk to you!” She flinched, and Damian watched her eyes narrow dangerously. She stepped around him, and Damian turned to see her storm up to where her classmate, Ivan, held her ex. Marinette stopped in front of the blonde, arms crossed.

“I said no, Adrien. I meant it. I don’t want anything to do with you. It’s been over for nearly a year now, you need to let this go.” Adrien frowned, forgetting how many of his classmates were around.

“But Mari, you love me! We were great together!” Marinette frowned.

“Adrien, I loved you so much, I was stupid about it. I would’ve done anything for you,” She choked a bit, clearing her throat, “And you wouldn’t even let the class know that we were dating. I had to tell Chloe secretly just so I had someone to talk to about it.” Adrien turned wide eyes to Chloe, who snarled at him; Kim kept a tight grip around the girls’ waist just in case. “Adrien, you never stood up for me, you never even cared enough to try. And I deserve better.” Adrien sneered, and Marinette hated the expression on his face; it looked so wrong.

“What, and he’s better?” Adrien nodded his head towards Damian, and he arched a brow in response. Marinette turned and regarded him for a moment before she smiled, and turned back to Adrien.

“I don’t know if Damian would be a better boyfriend than you Adrien, but I can tell you, he’s already a much better friend.” Adrien looked stricken, eyes watery as he looked between Marinette and Damian. Then security was there, being led by Dick who went and stood next to Jason. Three security officers took Adrien over to a table where they had him sit while Madame Bustier was found. The class was whispering amongst themselves, and Damian noticed how torn everyone was. Several of her classmates looked like they wanted to try and comfort Marinette, but weren’t sure how anymore. The first one to make up their mind was the bulky boy with blonde bangs who had been holding Chloe back.

He walked over, and placed a hand on Marinette’s shoulder, “Hey, Nette, are you ok?”

Marinette looked over and up at him, and Damian could see she was crying. He tensed when she threw her arms around the boy.

“I missed you, Kim…” The boy, Kim, frowned, before he returned the hug.

“Yeah, I missed you too, Nette.” Damian glanced at Alix and Chloe who were talking nearby. He had to admit, he was impressed. He couldn’t remember seeing many women go up and over a cafeteria table in stilettos, and then follow it up with such a nice right cross. If Adrien’s cheek wasn’t broken, it was surely fractured; Chloe was a force to be reckoned with. The two girls didn’t seem concerned with this particular classmate interacting with Marinette, so he stood by while she spoke to the boy, thanking him. Kim stayed at her side while Marinette thanked Ivan for getting Adrien away from her; Ivan just frowned.

“You don’t deserve to be treated that way, Mari. He should’ve been proud to have you.” Marinette had flushed and thanked him before he went back to his and Mylene’s table. Finally Marinette sighed and sat back down. Damian reclaimed his seat next to her, surprised to see Kim sit next to Chloe across the table; not a moment later did another new face show up. Damian regarded the boy and robot warily, looking at Alix and Chloe’s reactions once more. Seeing the two of them unbothered, Damian returned his attention to Marinette, who smiled at the newcomer.

“Hi, Max, hey Markov, how’re you guys doing?” Damian watched the boy and robot share a look, before the boy, Max, frowned.

“I uh, just wanted to see if you needed bandages or anything. Markov is fully equipped for first aid, Mari.” Max fixed his glasses while he pulled a spare chair over, “Adrien had no right putting his hands on you like that. I can’t fight like Kim, but I can make sure the bruising is kept to a minimum.” The smile Marinette gave him would’ve blinded a lesser man, Damian was sure.

“I would really appreciate that, Max. Thank you very much.” Max pursed his lips, nodding.

“It’s the least I can do.”

They all tensed as Marinette shrugged her right arm out of her hoodie. Chloe growled, eyes swivelling to the table where security was speaking with Miss Bustier and Dick; her gaze found Adrien who was staring at them in horror.

Oh, so he could see the bruises from over there.

Alix gasped, hands covering her mouth, and Kim scowled, his hands clenching. The only one who remained largely unaffected was Max. Markov had already analyzed the grip Adrien had had on Marinette’s arm, and had warned Max it would be bad. He still wasn’t quite prepared for it.

The outline of Adrien’s hand was obvious, rubbed red from the force; but the most telling parts were where his fingers had dug into her skin. His nails had bitten through skin in some places, and there was a bit of blood to clean up; underneath the blood were the bruises, already dark purples and yellows taking up space on her skin. Max tried to focus on his breathing, and helping the girl he once considered a dear friend. God, did he even have the right to think that anymore?

“Thank you for this Max, Markov. I’m glad to see you guys again.” Max looked up from her arm, and flushed when she smiled at him. He swallowed, and nodded, returning the smile hesitantly.

“Me too, Nette.” He got back to work on her arm again, pulling some alcohol swabs from a small compartment on Markov. They really didn’t deserve Marinette; they never had.

Damian was struggling to breathe the second Marinette’s arm left her jacket, and he joined Chloe in scowling at the blonde across the cafeteria. Staring at the dark, bleeding marks on her arm would not make him or her feel any better; but maybe beating the living hell out of the boy who caused them would…

He turned his attention back to Max and Marinette as the boy started cleaning the marks left by Adrien’s nails. Damian was tense, feeling a restless energy in himself he hadn’t felt for some time. He glanced at her jacket, where it hung off her shoulder, and he frowned.

She wasn’t going to tell anyone about the pain. She was going to go right back to her lunch like nothing happened.

…Was this the first time a situation like this had happened?  

Damian reached over and took her free hand in his, staring at their hands as he laced their fingers together. Her hands were calloused, years of fights and work marking her skin; her hands seemed so small in his, yet they were just as strong. Marinette looked over, observing him as he rubbed idle circles into her hand, and flushed when he finally looked up at her. He gave her a teasing smile, a surprisingly gentle thing.

“There’s never a boring moment with you is there, angel?”

Silence fell around the table, and for a moment, Damian panicked, worried he’d said the wrong thing; but then Marinette was laughing, shoulder shaking before she winced in pain. She smacked at his hand playfully before taking hold of it once more.

“Ow, don’t make me laugh, Damian.” She fought to keep her giggles under control, careful of where Markov sprayed disinfectant on her scratches. It was easier if she didn’t look, pretended the marks weren’t there. Damian grimaced.

“Sorry, angel. You still up for that dinner tonight? I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to just rest.” Marinette shook her head with a frown, her eyes narrowing.

“I am definitely still coming to dinner. I’m not letting that asshole ruin my day.” Chloe gasped, scandalized.

“Mari-bear, you can’t cuss! Who taught you that vile word?” Marinette rolled her eyes, giving Chloe a deadpan look over her shoulder that had the blonde laughing.

“I am allowed to cuss. Just you watch me. Bitches.” Damian snorted, while Alix cackled; Damian thought he even heard Tim snickering to himself down the table. The tension in the air wasn’t gone, but it had surely lessened. Max finished with her arm shortly after that, wrapping it in an ace bandage. He fidgeted with his phone for a moment before he sighed.

“Marinette, could I have your phone number, please? Markov took pictures of your marks in case you want to press charges, and I’d like to send them to you.” Marinette blinked, her face growing pale.

“P-press charges?? Oh god, but-” Tim interrupted her.

“Kid, you should definitely press charges. That’s assault.” Marinette stared at Tim for a moment before she turned back to Max, handing him her phone. Damian could see her biting her lip, and he knew she was considering it.

“I’ll… think about it.”

An obnoxiously loud giggle from one of the nearby tables drew her attention, and Marinette glanced over to see Lila sitting with Alya, Rose, Juleka, Sabrina, and Nathaniel; Nino was noticeably absent, and Marinette frowned.

“That’s right! My Damiboo just loves taking me out around the town. Last night’s dinner was so much fun!” Alya grinned, nudging Lila’s shoulder with her own. Marinette rolled her eyes, and turned back to the table after Max handed her phone back. She smiled as Max went around the table, sitting next to Kim, and snuggling into his side. Kim gave his boyfriend a wide grin before dropping a kiss on the boy’s forehead; Markov hovered behind them, and rolled his eyes. Marinette was about to return to her food when she heard Alya respond.

“Girl, I cannot believe you’re dating Damian Wayne! That’s so damn cool!”

Marinette choked on her drink, trying and failing to conceal her laughter. She glanced to her right, where Damian was sat, and she started coughing; he looked so insulted!

“Angel, who is that?” Marinette cleared her throat, getting control of her breathing, and offered her friend an apologetic smile.

“Sorry about that, that’s uh, Lila Rossi. She-” Alix leaned around from her left with a flat look,

“She’s a lying ho, that’s all you need to know.” Marinette turned to her.

“Alix! You shouldn’t say that.” Chloe scoffed from the other side of the table; she had her nail file out, fixing the nail she’d broken on Adrien’s face. She pointed the file at Marinette with a smirk.

“We just call it like we see it, Mari-bear.” Chloe’s smile fell as she glanced in Adrien’s direction, who was still talking with Madame Bustier and Dick. A new man had joined them, and Chloe felt her levels of glee rise; the man was dressed in a smart business suit, and wow, he was built.

Bruce Wayne cut an imposing figure as he scowled at their teacher.

Chloe turned back to Marinette, “Are you ok, DC?” Marinette blinked at her, shocked.

“Yeah, but I’m more worried about you. You didn’t twist your ankle or anything did you? I know you hate moving like that in your heels.” Chloe rolled her eyes, and flicked a piece of her salmon across the table at Marinette; it didn’t quite make it.

“Stop worrying about me; your ex just assaulted your pretty ass, and you’re worried about my ankles? Ridiculous!” She looked at Damian, gesturing to Marinette, “You see what I deal with, Damian? I swear.” Chloe watched the young man tear his glare away from Lila’s table and focus back on Marinette; the smile that came to his face filled Chloe with confidence. He liked their everyday Ladybug.

She knew she’d been right.

“Chloe has a point, angel; you should really worry more about yourself right now.” Marinette scowled up at him, but it really looked cuter than anything; which is how Damian knew she didn’t mean it, and was teasing him. He remembered quite vividly what her eyes looked like when she was serious.

“I can worry about whoever I want, thank you very much.” Damian chuckled, holding the hand of her injured arm gently. He offered Chloe an unapologetic shrug.

“Sorry, can’t argue with that logic.” Chloe clicked her tongue and rolled her eyes.

“You are no help to me.” Alix snorted, giving her a grin.

“Is anyone?” Kim laughed while Max rolled his eyes; Chloe gave her an almost feral grin, but before she could speak, someone else did.

“M-Marinette?”

Chloe’s eyes narrowed as her smile fell into a scowl, and her reaction had Damian turning. Two girls, two of the ones from the liar’s table, stood there. The small blonde one clutched the taller girl’s hand like a lifeline; both looked more than a little ashamed of themselves, but also angry. The smaller one spoke again.

“I-I, um, I mean, we just wanted to check and see if you were… ok.” Marinette regarded them, her expression a bit guarded.

“I’ve got some bruising, and a few cuts; but otherwise I’m fine.” She gave them a smile, and Damian watched the taller girl bite her lip, “Thanks for asking Rose, Juleka.”

Marinette went to turn back around when the dark haired one, Juleka, spoke.

“Marinette, I wanted to say I’m sorry.” Marinette paused, her eyes wide. Juleka frowned, glancing back towards the table her and Rose had come from; just in time to see the others turn back around quickly. She scowled, and Rose tightened her hold on her hand in reassurance. Juleka looked back at Marinette.

“I didn’t realize for so long that it was never you bullying Lila; it was always the other way around. I-” Marinette gasped, standing up as tears rolled down Juleka’s cheeks, “I didn’t realize, but I should have! You a-always went out of your way for us, for all of us. We didn’t even try-” Rose wasn’t much better, tears rolling down her face in steady streams.

“Guys, please don’t cry! You didn’t know.”

“It doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t help. That they didn’t believe you.” Marinette turned to Chloe, who was looking at Rose and Juleka with unconcealed skepticism. She switched her gaze to Marinette, “What do you think, DC?” Marinette frowned and turned back to the girls in front of her. She sighed, considering.

“We don’t deserve your forgiveness, Marinette.” Said girl looked up in surprise, watching Juleka wipe at her tears in vain; more just took their place. “Chloe’s right, we weren’t there for you; not like you were for us. And there’s nothing to be done for that.” Marinette nodded after a moment.

“That’s true,” Rose’s shoulders shuddered as her tears fell with more force, and Juleka bit her lip; Marinette smiled, “But you’re here now, aren’t you?”

Rose sobbed, and Marinette soon found herself with an armful of blonde; Rose hugged her tight, mindful of her injury, and buried her face in Marinette’s shirt.

“I-I’m so sorry Nettie!” Marinette felt her eyes get misty as Juleka joined the hug, and she did her best to wrap her arms around both girls.

“Guys, you’re gonna make me cry…” Rose shook her head, clutching Marinette tighter.

“No, you can’t cry anymore, i-it’s illegal…” Marinette laughed, and then she was crying too, holding the girls closer to her.

The three of them stood together for a moment, gathering themselves. Finally, after a minute or two, they separated. Rose offered Juleka a tissue she pulled from her bag, before handing another one to Marinette. The two left for the bathroom to clean up, since Juleka’s makeup had been ruined, and the shoulder of Rose’s shirt had suffered for it. Juleka hesitated before they left.

“When we come back…” Marinette smiled, encouraging her, and Juleka flushed, “Could we maybe… sit with you guys?” Damian watched as Marinette seemed to glow at the thought, her smile brightening.

“Of course.” And then the two girls were gone, off to the stalls.

Marinette slumped back into her seat with a sigh, a tired but pleased smile on her face. Alix smiled a bit.

“You look exhausted.” Marinette groaned, using one of her napkins to clean up her face some more.

“A lot has happened, and it’s not even one o’ clock, Alix. We still have the Pier to go to today.” She cleared her throat, taking a drink of her drink; crying was exhausting. “I’m kind of terrified of anything else happening.”

“Rest assured, miss Dupain-Cheng, I am doing everything I can to make sure nothing else happens.”

Marinette jolted, her knee slamming into the underside of the table, and she groaned as Chloe began to laugh; Alix and Kim shared a grin while Max sighed. Damian turned and glared up at his father.

“Father, what are you doing here?”

Bruce smiled down at the students, offering Marinette an amused grimace.

“I apologize for startling you. Are you ok?” Marinette flushed, waving off his concern even as her knee pulsed in agony. Gods, she felt dumb.

“It’s fine, sir! I’ve had worse, I promise! I just didn’t hear you come up. And please, call me Marinette.” Bruce looked oddly concerned at the promise of her having had worse, but he merely filed it away for later. He gave her a smile.

“Marinette, then. I wanted to reassure you that I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure you’re able to enjoy the rest of your day.” The blood rushed to Marinette’s head so fast she got dizzy.

“S-sir, you don’t have to do anything like that! There’s no reason for you to! I’ll be fine, I swear.” Bruce shook his head, holding his hand up.

“Nonsense, I owe you a great debt, Marinette; whether you think so or not. The fact remains that I sponsored this trip, and you saved my granddaughter. You have more than earned the right to a good time.” He smiled, nodding at Damian, “I trust my son has been good to you?”

Chloe covered her mouth as she snorted, and Marinette flushed; Damian sighed. Marinette couldn’t help her smile as she nodded.

“Yes, sir! Damian has been nothing but wonderful since we met! He has a lot of respect for you.” Damian stared at her, scandalized.

“Angel!” Marinette laughed.

“I never said I wouldn’t tell him!”

Bruce watched the two interact with a fond smile, seeing his son blush for what he’s certain is the first time. He cleared his throat, and smirked when Damian glared at him.

“I trust you’ll still join us for dinner tonight? If not, we can do it another time.” Marinette nodded, a smile on her face.

“I would love to, sir. Thank you very much.” Bruce smiled, and held his hand out. She shook it, giving him a startlingly sweet smile.

“Please, call me Bruce.” He stepped back, and regarded her friends, “Forgive me, but it’ll take some time to arrange a meal to accommodate all of you. I should be able to schedule it for sometime next week. Would that be alright?”

Most of the kids stared at him in shock, but Chloe merely smiled, flipping her hair.

“Thank you very much, Mr. Wayne. We’d love to.” Bruce chuckled a bit, nodding.

“Excellent. Damian,” He looked back at his son, thoroughly enjoying the aggravated look he was given, “I’d like you to stay with Marinette during their time at the pier. Keep the… riff raff away.” Damian scoffed.

“I don’t need you to tell me that.” Bruce smirked, and raised a brow.

“I know.” Leaving his son embarrassed and glaring, Bruce waved at the kids before turning and leaving, heading back towards the teacher and security. He sighed, looking at the blonde boy who had caused this situation.

Always another problem to take care of…

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

@wAYNEtechieBish

(½) Oh my god. I hope we host tours for

schools more i just got lunch *&* a show

at work. Like damn dude. #wayneenters

#dramaticasschildren #HOLYSHIT #WAIT

 

@wAYNEtechieBish

(2/2) Ths girl st8 went ovr the table at ths

dude!! SIS IS IN HEELS!! DAMN! N she

BUSTED his ass!! #gethimbb!! #godDAMN

#dudeiLOVEmyjob #dontfiremeplease

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter Text

Lunch wrapped up with little to no problem after that, and no one said a word when Adrien was escorted out of the cafeteria by Madame Bustier and the three security guards. Jason and Dick had both come to check on her as well once everything had died down. Marinette managed a smile for them, waving off their concerns, and they left with promises to see her at dinner. Even Tim, before he left, slid her a card from one of his friends, only commenting that they were one of the best lawyers he knew; Marinette thanked him, slipping the card in her purse.

And then the tour was over, and Madame Bustier was loading everyone onto the bus to head to the pier. Marinette sighed as she hung towards the back of the line, Damian standing with her.

“You ok, angel?” She shrugged her good shoulder.

“I’m just not looking forward to the bus, is all. Lila has been glaring at me since lunch, and I’m just not sure I have the patience to deal with her right now.” Damian snorted good naturedly, giving her a smile.

“Anything you give her will be well deserved, I’m sure.” Marinette smiled, and Damian shrugged, “You could always ride with me. Father did tell me to watch out for you.” His smile softened just a bit, “Though I would’ve tagged along even if he hadn’t.” Marinette arched a brow at him, her smile playful.

“Is that so?” Damian flushed a bit.

“If you’d wanted me to, I mean.” Marinette laughed, waving her hand.

“It’s fine, it’s fine. In all honesty,” She smiled at him, lacing her fingers with his, and delighting in the way his cheeks turned pink, “I probably would’ve asked you to tag along anyway. You’re fun to be around, Damian, and I appreciate your company.” He stared at her for a moment, before he cleared his throat, looking away from the earnest look in her eyes.

“Well, you’re one of the very few who do. Thank you.”  Chloe paused on her way towards the bus, Alix and Kim in a heated conversation about some video game next to her; Max merely rolled his eyes at his friends, while he and Markov continued to the bus.

“Mari-bear, are you riding with Damian?” Marinette turned to her with a smile, and nodded.

“Damian offered me a ride, so I think I will, yes.” She grimaced, “Would you be willing to let Mme. Bustier know? I can do it if you don’t-” Chloe scoffed, and rolled her eyes, but her smile was fond.

“Oh, shush. Go on now, and I’ll see you there.” Marinette smiled sheepishly, while Chloe turned her attention to Damian, and arched a brow, “I don’t need to tell you what happens to you if she doesn’t show up, right?” Marinette flushed, spluttering indignantly, while Damian nodded.

“Of course not. I would expect nothing less from you, Chloe.” Chloe nodded once, pleased with his answer before she waved, and turned back towards the bus.

“Good. See you soon~!”

Marinette sighed, shaking her head.

“I swear, she lives to embarrass me. Why? What did I do to deserve this?” Damian snorted as they walked over to where his car remained parked. He gave Marinette a grin while the girl scowled at him.

“You do make it rather easy, angel.” He unlocked the car, and opened the door for her. Before getting in, Marinette pointed at him.

“You have no room to talk, mister. You’re just as easy to fluster, you know.” She stepped into the car, sitting down, and Damian grinned.

“Maybe.” He shut the door softly, and he noticed the bus pull away as he walked around to the driver side. He frowned; her teacher really wasn’t all that concerned about Marinette, was she? She didn’t even come to check who had her student.

‘How irresponsible.’

He’d be having words with his father after dinner tonight about that woman.

He climbed into the driver’s seat, starting the car, and pulling out into traffic. Damian opened his mouth to say something when Marinette spoke.

“I want to say sorry about all of this, Damian.” He startled, glancing at her in shock before turning his attention back to the road.

“Angel, you really don’t have anything to apologize for.” She sighed, slouching back into the seat.

“You didn’t deserve to get pulled into all of… that. You shouldn’t be having to deal with my problems, or help me with them.” She looked at him, “I wasn’t kidding when I told Adrien you were already a better friend than him, but you also don’t deserve me just dumping my problems on you.” Damian scoffed.

“I’d imagine it’s rather easy to be a better friend than that neanderthal.” Marinette snorted in laughter, but Damian continued, “Forgive me Marinette, but for someone so startlingly kind and sincere, you are a bit blind.” She looked at him in offense, but he pushed on, “You say I don’t deserve to be burdened with your problems, and that I shouldn’t have to help you with them; but isn’t that exactly what you are constantly doing for your friends?” Marinette paused, staring at him in slight shock. Damian shrugged, as he made a right hand turn.

“I just think you should let your friends return the favor. And while I agree that no one should have to deal with others problems, it’s a different kind of situation when those people want to help you.” He slowed to a stop at a red light, and finally looked at her. He smiled at the flabbergasted look on her face. “And I think I’d like to help you, and get to know you better. If you’d like, of course.” And Marinette softened, a small smile coming to her face.

“You’re much more chatty than the articles say you are.” Damian scoffed, but he gave her a grin.

“Who’d want to talk to those idiots? You’re fun, and you actually understand me quite well.” He turned his attention back to the road as the light turned green. “That reminds me, this morning when we met up with Chloe; why didn’t you say my last name out loud?” Marinette bit her lip, like she was considering how to answer.

“Well, when we got the trip, I made sure to research the man sponsoring us, and his family; I didn’t want to be rude, after all. You’re really the only one they regularly mention; and I noticed a theme in your interviews.” She shrugged, “Whenever someone starts getting too attached to your last name, you get frigid. And then when I ran into you, you flinched when you introduced yourself.” Marinette flushed, fiddling with her purse strap, “I just thought you would appreciate it.”

Damian was more than a little surprised. He normally had people clamoring for his attention due to his last name; it drove him mad, and Marinette was right. When people started going on about his last name, and the weight it carried, it infuriated him.

Damian is more than his name, and he always would be.

And the fact that Marinette had noticed it from his interviews alone? That spoke of excellent people skills, and more subtlety than he expected.

“Oh god, I wasn’t wrong was I?” Damian laughed, broken from his musing as he shook his head.

“No, you’ve got it right, angel. I’m just surprised you noticed it.” Marinette’s cheeks reddened, and she pouted.

“It’s pretty obvious though. You tense up, and your eyes narrow; depending on how dumb the interviewer, you even clench your jaw. It’s all rather telling.” It was Damian’s turn to blush now, knowing she’d scrutinized him so closely. “Those reporters should be better trained in body language than that.” Damian chuckled.

“Yes, well, most people aren’t as polite as that here, angel.” Marinette huffed.

“Well, they should be.” Damian couldn’t help but laugh as they turned onto the seaside street that led to the pier.

“Maybe you can convince them.” And Damian glanced over in time to see Marinette’s eyes light up.

“Oh, I will, just you watch.” Damian grinned.

“I don’t doubt it, angel.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Damian parked a few spaces away from where the bus was. Before he could get around to open the door for Marinette, she was already up and stepping out. He tried not to dwell on the small disappointment in his chest, and it all but evaporated when she turned and smiled at him.

“Want to look for the others?” He nodded, walking around the car, and Marinette seamlessly slipped her hand into his. He smiled, and led the way over to where the bus was parked near the entrance, Marinette humming to herself while she idly swung their hands.

“Do you think they’ve left you again?” Marinette snorted.

“I don’t doubt it.” Damian frowned, and though he did partially know the answer, he asked anyway.

“Why is your class so unconcerned with you? You’re in one of the most dangerous cities on the planet, and they seemed completely at ease leaving you behind this morning.” Marinette pursed her lips, looking at him. She stared at him for a moment, and Damian let her think it over.

“That’s…” Marinette sighed, “It’s a long story.” Damian nodded.

“I’ve got time, angel.”

She looked away, and the silence stretched for only a moment.

“Four years ago, Lila came to our school. It was just a few months after the appearance of Ladybug and Chat Noir, and she transferred in from a school in Italy,” She looked over at him, “Her mother is a diplomat; that, at least, isn’t a lie.” Marinette sighed, “When she came, she started boasting about how she was best friends with Ladybug. It was dangerous, what she was doing; she could’ve gotten someone seriously hurt. And I… heard Ladybug confront her in front of Adrien, saying she had no idea who Lila was.” Damian felt her grip on his hand tighten just a bit, “I tried telling everyone but… they didn’t believe me. Lila told them I was jealous, and they just- believed her. We’d known each other for years, and all of a sudden, none of that mattered.” She grit her teeth, their pace slowing as they passed the bus; Marinette saw none of her classmates.

“She got me in trouble, nearly got me expelled. If it hadn’t been for Adrien, I would’ve been. She disappeared for awhile after that, didn’t come to school, and no one heard from her. And then…” Marinette sighed, “Then she came back. She told everyone all of these fantastic stories of all the things she’d done while she was gone, and everyone ate it up. But that’s all they were; stories.” She looked at Damian, surprised to find him still paying attention, “None of them were true. I tried telling everyone, but they told me I was just jealous because she liked Adrien. Then, one day, she cornered me in the bathroom.” Damian’s scowl deepened, and it was his turn to tighten the grip on her hand; Marinette offered him a small smile. “She told me either I was with her, or against her; and if I was against her, then she’d take everything I loved. Including my friends.” Marinette laughed, but it was so lacking in life that it hurt him, “And I didn’t believe her! After all, these were friends I’d had for years! Sure, Adrien and Alya were kind of new, but Alya had stood up for me with Chloe back then; I knew she’d have my back.”

Marinette was quiet for a moment as they moved through the crowd of people towards the entrance of the park. Finally, she sighed.

“But I was wrong.” The icy tone of voice surprised him, but she was burning with hurt, “In the end, Alya was the first one to really leave me. Lila told her I shoved her down the stairs. And since no one had seen me, they just took her word, and completely wrote me off.” Marinette shrugged, “It just got worse after that. She started telling people that I’d said things or done something that I hadn’t done, and no one took a moment to even ask me.” Her voice got quieter as they got up to the ticket booth, “They knew me for years, but they never actually knew me. Now they’re convinced I’m some awful bully who has it out for Lila.” She looked at him after she handed the clerk her pre-assigned class ticket; Damian handed the clerk some cash for his own ticket, and then they were entering the park. ‘’That’s why they didn’t care, Damian.”

Damian frowned as he looked at her, “How have you not been akumatized, angel? That sounds awful.” Marinette shrugged, a fragile smile on her face.

“It sounds bad, but I’m sorry to say I’m used to it. The first year was the hardest; everything since then has been easy in comparison.”

That… did not make him feel any better.

Damian saw Chloe in the distance, Alix and the others with her. Chloe noticed them a moment later, and started heading their way. He turned his attention back to Marinette.

“That doesn’t mean you should have to deal with that, Marinette. You don’t deserve that kind of treatment.” She smiled at him, but before she could say anything, Chloe was there, wrapping her in a hug. Marinette squealed, laughing as Chloe picked her up with the force of her embrace.

“Oh good, you’re here! I was worried he might’ve kidnapped you.” Marinette laughed, but Damian smirked, shrugging one shoulder.

“I considered it.” Marinette flushed, looking at him, and his grin grew, “Still am, even,” He teased. Alix laughed as she joined them, Max and Kim not far behind; Juleka and Rose were there next, bringing up the rear. Alix slapped him on the back good naturedly.

“Least you’re honest, man; that speaks a lot about you.” Alix held her hand out with a grin, “I haven’t properly introduced myself to you yet. I’m Alix Kubdel.” Damian shook her hand.

“Damian. It’s nice to meet you, officially.” Alix snorted, and then Kim was there, scrutinizing him.

“How do you know Marinette, huh?” Damian grinned a bit.

“She saved my niece.” Kim raised his eyebrows, looking at Marinette in shock before he looked back at Damian.

“Well, damn. Ok then.” The boy grinned, holding his own hand out, “I’m Kim, it’s nice to meet you, dude.” Damian shook his hand as well, offering him a small grin.

“Likewise, Kim. Your hold on Chloe earlier was rather impressive.” Next to him, Chloe scoffed while Kim laughed.

“I’ve got years of practice holding Alix; Chloe’s a little tougher since she’s so tall.” He grimaced, “Plus if she gets her nails in you, it’s over.” Chloe smiled, a vindictive look of joy in her eyes.

“As long as we’re all aware.” She returned to her quiet conversation with Marinette, when Juleka smiled at Damian.

“Hi, I don’t think we’ve spoken. I’m Juleka, and this is my girlfriend, Rose.” Neither girl offered to shake his hand, and Damian was fine with that; he was getting rather tired of it.

“It’s nice to meet you, ladies. I’m glad to see your class isn’t full of idiots at least.” Both girls grimaced a bit, but Damian had already turned to Max, who merely nodded in greeting. Marinette gripped his hand a bit tighter, and he looked at her. She smiled.

“Ready to ride some roller coasters?” He shrugged.

“I figure I’ve gone long enough without riding one, it’s about time.” Marinette’s eyes widened, and she gasped, offended.

“You’ve never ridden a roller coaster?” Damian shook his head, putting his free hand in the pocket of his pants.

“No, I haven’t had the chance. I usually stay fairly busy.” Marinette grew nervous, stumbling over her words as she realized she may have derailed any previous plans he may have had.

“Oh my god, Damian, I-I’m not keeping you from anything am I? I’m sorry, I hadn’t even thought of that-” He shook his head.

“It’s fine, angel.” He ignored the shocked looks on Juleka’s and Rose’s faces at the nickname, “I have nothing more important to do than this, so don’t worry, please.” She stared at him for a moment, like she was confirming what he was saying, before she finally nodded.

“As long as you’re sure. I don’t want you to get in trouble.” Damian snorted in good humor.

“Please, it’s impossible for me to be in trouble.” Marinette rolled her eyes.

“Sure it is, nerd.” Alix laughed, while Damian looked at Marinette in offense.

“Tim is the nerd, thank you.” Grinning, Marinette began leading them towards a nearby ride.

“You’re totally a nerd, Damian. Just embrace it.” He huffed, glancing behind them to find Marinette’s friends deep in hushed discussion some feet behind them; his eyes narrowed. That didn’t bode well.

His suspicions were confirmed when Chloe looked up, met his eyes, and smiled. Damian shuddered, feeling the chill crawl over his skin. Then Chloe was calling out to them.

“Hey, DC, wait!” Marinette turned, giving Chloe a smile. Chloe waved her hand nonchalantly, nodding back to the rest of the group.

“We’re gonna go do some other stuff while you guys do roller coasters.” She rolled her eyes, giving the group a flat look, “SOME people ate too much, and aren’t feeling up to the rides yet.” Chloe’s smile grew, “So you and Damian go on ahead, and we’ll catch up soon, ok?”

Marinette stared at her friend for a moment, before her eyes narrowed a bit.

“That’s fine. But Chloe?” Her friend’s grin grew just a bit, and Marinette sighed, “Just make sure you’re nice to Juleka and Rose ok?” Chloé scoffed, pouting.

“Oh, fine, I won’t interrogate them while they recover.” She clicked her tongue, “You’re no fun sometimes, Mari-bear.” Marinette shook her head fondly while she watched the group head in the opposite direction, Chloe waving goodbye as she joined them. She turned back to Damian, and smiled.

“Ready for some fun?” Damian snorted, rolling his eyes, before he grinned at her.

“Is that what happens here? Fun?” Marinette laughed, bumping her shoulder into his before she rolled her eyes.

“Ok, smart ass. You stop that.” Looking around, she saw a coaster not too far off full of twists, and twirls, and loops; perfect. Damian gasped, mock offense coloring his tone as she started leading them towards it.

“What would Chloe think, hearing you say that angel?” He grinned when she gave him a flat look over her shoulder; then she smiled, and Damian felt something flutter in his chest.

Hm. Strange.

“Chloe isn’t going to find out, now is she, Damian?” Damian’s grin grew, and he innocently shrugged his shoulder.

“Hmm, I don’t know, angel… Are you able to buy my silence?” Marinette laughed as they got in line for the coaster, grinning at him.

“I’m not sure, what does the great Damian demand in return?” Humming, Damian looked up at the sky, seeming to be deep in thought; Marinette couldn’t help but giggle.

“I think… Maybe being your guide around the Gardens tomorrow?” Marinette smiled as he looked back at her, and she pretended to think it over. How was he so fun?

“I think that can be arranged. I hear the Wayne Botanical Gardens are on my list of things to see tomorrow.” Damian smirked a bit as they stepped forward in line.

“Can I pick you up?” Marinette wasn’t sure why, but she felt her cheeks heat up; her smile grew as she nodded.

“That sounds lovely, thank you.” Her smile softened a bit as she laced her fingers with his; she watched his cheeks pinken ever so slightly, “You’re a very considerate person, Damian. I’m glad to have met you.” Damian smiled, for once unbothered by the proximity of the people around them.

“The feeling is mutual, angel. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever met someone like yourself.” Marinette snorted, giving him a playful look.

“In a good way?” Damian rolled his eyes in exasperation, giving her a look, and Marinette laughed.

“Of course in a good way. I find it hard to think anyone would dare say otherwise.” His gaze grew more considering as they moved further towards the ride, the line shortening. “Which is why I’m greatly questioning this girl in your class.” Marinette sighed.

“Sorry about what she said at lunch. I can’t believe-… Well, actually I kind of can, but still. It’s incredibly rude of her to lie about dating one of our sponsors’ sons.” Marinette couldn’t help but snicker, covering her mouth, “And you were right. THERE!” She snorted, “And she didn’t even notice!” And then she was laughing again, waving her hand at him, and apologizing between giggles. Damian found it hard to hold onto the anger he felt when he thought about this Lila girl as he watched Marinette laugh.

“I-I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t laugh. I’m just-” Marinette snorted, giggling again, “She said it right in front of you, and you looked so insulted.” She sighed, getting herself under control; offering him a sheepish little smile, she shrugged.

“I’m genuinely not sure why Lila does what she does. She’s pretty enough, and her life is interesting without all the lies.” She looked up at him, “Her motives are just not something that I’m capable of understanding, I guess.” Damian nodded.

“Sometimes, the motive is purely evil; I can’t fault you for not understanding that kind of thing.” He turned his eyes to the roller coaster since they were closer, and he could see it more clearly. He watched the group in front of them get strapped in, and then they began the long ride to the top of the first drop. His hands were starting to feel weird.

Marinette bumped their shoulders together, and Damian looked at her as the gates opened, and they were called forward.

“Nervous?”

Damian snorted as they walked forward, taking the two seats in the second row from the front. He held his hand out for Marinette as she stepped in, and they both sat before being strapped in. Marinette grinned at him as Damian frowned.

“…Maybe.”

Marinette laughed as the cars began to move forward, and Damian tensed. It was slow going, listening to the machine beneath him rattle and clink; he finally breathed when Marinette reached over and wrapped his hand in hers. He looked at her, surprised to see her concerned.

“Damian, do you have a thing about heights?” He shook his head.

“Not before, no.” They were nearing the top now. Marinette frowned.

“Are you going to be ok?” Taking a deep breath, he nodded, giving her a small grin.

“They’re supposed to be a little scary, right?”

Marinette’s response cut off into a scream as they went over the drop, and Damian felt his heart jump as they plummeted. He found a grin on his face as they went around the first corner, and Marinette was giggle/screaming in joy next to him. His breath caught when they went through the first loop, and he nearly died when Marinette let go of her support bar to dangle her arms in the air; it was over as quickly as it had come, the cars rushing along the tracks.

And finally, it ended.

The cars pulled slowly into the station, and Damian had a grin on his face when he turned to Marinette, who looked just as windblown as he did.

“Holy shit.”

Marinette laughed, tears gathering in her eyes.

“I-I’m glad you liked it! I was really worried there for a second, you know.” Damian shrugged, jerking a bit as the cars stopped; the attendant came by, releasing their harnesses, and Damian held out his hand to Marinette as they disembarked. Marinette offered him a smile as he helped her out, and they headed for the exit.

“I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive. The tension was awful at the beginning.” Marinette nodded knowingly.

“I was the same way on my first ride.” She grinned at him, taking his hand, “Want to find another one?” Damian smiled, gripping her hand.

“Let’s go, angel.”

It was nice to have fun.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“So, tell me,” Chloe stared at Juleka as she stirred her lemonade, her eyes narrowed, “what made you jump ship so quick, Jules? Just this morning, you were ‘hashtag team Lila’ all the way. Why the sudden change?” Rose fidgeted next to her, but Juleka didn’t look away from Chloe. Alix sat next to the blonde, but Max and Kim were off at the arcade next door.

“I’ve… suspected something was up for a while. Certain things just not adding up, like Rose mentioning Lila to Ali only to be met with confusion. But I couldn’t disprove her saying Marinette was bullying her.” Juleka sighed, her eyes falling to where her hands rested on the table between her and Chloe, “I’ve known her for ages, I knew she couldn’t be doing the things Lila was saying; but there was never any evidence besides that to disprove it. This morning, when Marinette caught up with us, she said something. She said,” Juleka looked back at Chloe, her mouth set in a thin line, “‘I generally try not to talk to you, Lila’. And the pieces started to fall together.” Juleka paused, gritting her teeth, and Chloe watched her eyes cloud over in anger.

“And then, at lunch, when Adrien pulled that stunt…”

~

Juleka shared a concerned look with Rose as they watched the security guards lead Adrien away. What had Adrien been shouting about? They’d been great together? When had they even dated?? Lila was going on about something or other, but neither girl was listening for awhile, lost in their own thoughts; they tuned back in at the wrong - maybe right? - time.

Lila scoffed, rolling her eyes as she turned back to her food, “I swear, that girl will do anything for attention. What a ridiculous scene.” Next to her, Alya nodded, disappointment on her face.

“I can’t believe how much that girl has changed. Can you believe I was ever her friend?” Juleka frowned, staring at the girls. Were they serious? Adrien was clearly the one at fault here; she said as much, and Lila sneered.

“Please, she had a crush on him for ages; I’m sure she just loves the attention he’s finally giving her.” Juleka scowled, going to reply, when Rose gasped, a sharp sound in her ear; and then Juleka was turning to look in horror at what Rose was seeing.

The bruises on Marinette’s arm were downright ghastly in comparison to her pale skin. Juleka watched, stunned, as Max and Markov cleaned the blood from the scratches, and started wrapping her arm. A quick glance around the table showed many of them had equal looks of dismay on their faces. Nathaniel looked like he was going to be ill, and Sabrina had gone pale. Even Alya’s mouth had dropped open in shock, clear worry in her eyes; they all looked worried.

Well, except for Lila.

She was glaring at Marinette, her lips pulled back into a snarl; and Juleka felt a boulder settle on her shoulders in that moment.

Gods, they had been wrong. They’d always thought it was Marinette bullying Lila; but it hadn’t been, had it? And they had chosen the wrong person to follow. She listened to Lila ramble on about how she was dating some guy named Damian Wayne, but all she could do was stare at Marinette as Max finished cleaning her arm and sat with her. Juleka made her decision then.

One look at Rose, and Juleka knew she’d come with her. With a sigh, she pushed away from the table, and went to stand; then Lila spoke again, noticing her attention on Marinette.

“God, how much of an attention whore does she have to be? Those are clearly fake.”  Juleka felt her anger flare, and Rose gripped her hand. Looking at her, Juleka watched Rose shake her head, tears filling her eyes. Juleka simply nodded, and they stood together. Lila stared at them in shock.

“We’re gonna go check on Marinette.” Lila glared at her as she spoke, and if Juleka hadn’t been looking at her, she would’ve missed it.

“What, you’d rather sit with that floozy?” Juleka frowned at her. Had she ever even used Marinette’s name when she said such awful things about her?

“Our friend was just assaulted by one of our classmates. Of course we should check on her.”

Alya scoffed.

“I’m sure she deserved it.”

Juleka saw red, and then Rose was leading her away, towards Marinette and her friends, and she didn’t have time to dwell in her anger.

 

~

 

By the time Juleka finished speaking, Chloe’s hands were clenched in rage, her eyes narrowed; and then the blonde smiled, and Juleka shuddered at the icy look it gave her.

“Thank you for telling me, Jules, I appreciate it.” Alix grinned next to Chloe, laughing a bit.

“You got that look on your face again, Chloe.” Juleka watched the smile drop, and then she was pouting, looking at Alix.

“I did not!” Rose giggled, and Juleka looked at her girlfriend in surprise; she’d always been terrified of Chloe after all. Rose smiled at Chloe, and Juleka felt her cheeks warm; her girlfriend was the cutest.

“I’m glad you love her so much, Chloe. You’re a great friend to her.” Chloe preened, sipping her drink.

“At least someone appreciates my efforts.” Alix snorted before she fell quiet, and slouched back into her chair.

“Man, I can’t believe Alya said that. No one deserves to be manhandled like that.” Juleka nodded.

“That’s what Nino said.” Alix arched a brow.

“Where is that dude anyway? I haven’t seen him.” Rose sighed, sharing a look with Juleka, who just shrugged.

“He stormed off shortly after Adrien grabbed her. Lila and Alya had said something, but we missed it.” Juleka nodded.

“Nino heard it though. And he just looked… so disgusted. Then he stormed off. We haven’t seen him since then, actually.” Chloe shared a look with Alix, who looked worried. They all knew Nino wasn’t a bad dude; he was along on the ride with Alya since he loved her, and all of his attempts to say anything had been met with derision. Chloe wondered idly if that would be changing after today. Alix spoke up, concern in her tone.

“You don’t think he got left behind do you?? It’s not safe in Gotham.”

“Dudette, I am honored you even thought to be concerned for me.” The group all turned to see Nino standing there, with plenty of pace between himself and their table. He raised a hand, and waved hesitantly, his usual grin absent from his face. Even Chloe had to admit he looked startlingly serious. He met Chloe’s eyes, and nodded at an empty chair.

“Can I sit, please?”

Chloe stared at him for a moment, regarding him. His back was straight, so she knew he had a reason for being there; but his nervous ticks didn’t go unnoticed, and Chloe watched him idly roll his thumb around his fingers. Finally, she sighed.

“Sit, Lahiffe. And tell me why you’re here.”

And he did.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Marinette laughed as her and Damian collapsed on a bench near the ride they’d just finished.

“Wow, I have never been this dizzy!” Damian groaned from next to her; his head was hanging over the back of the bench, and his eyes were closed in concentration.

“Never again, angel.” Marinette laughed, holding his hand in hers as she gave him a teasing smile.

“Aww, come on, it wasn’t that bad, was it?” She laughed when he cracked open an eye to peer at her.

“Never. Again.” Marinette pouted, looking back at the gravity ride in mourning. Admittedly, she did have a bit of a headache after that… She sighed, giving him a smile.

“That’s fine. You want to go to the arcade? I’m feeling a little nauseous from all these rides.” Damian nodded, a sigh falling from his lips.

“Thank god, so am I.” Marinette laughed as they stood up, and moved towards the arcade, and game side of the pier, avoiding the rides now. She stared longingly at some of the prize winning games, promising herself to try her hand at a few when she had the chance. The arcade was subpar compared to what she was used to having at home; but there was a Dance Dance machine tucked into the back. Marinette squealed, hurrying over to it, and setting her purse down in front of her. Damian flushed as she pulled her hoodie off, laying it with her bag before she started counting out her money.

Damian wandered over, tapping in for player 2.

“You play DDR, angel?” Marinette scoffed.

“I live for DDR, Damian. I am the reigning champion of game night at home, you know.” Damian grinned, laying his own jacket with hers.

“Well, I happen to be the reigning champ among my brothers. Think you can beat me?” The grin Marinette gave him made his knees weak; but Damian found it hard to mind.

“Oh, I know I can, petit oiseau,” His cheeks flooded with red as she winked at him, and Marinette laughed as she selected a song, “We’ll start with a classic so we’re on equal footing.” Damian snorted at the pun, and then paused as the song’s intro started.

Butterfly by Smile played from the speakers, and he sighed.

And it began.

Damian played DDR in a way more familiar to most people; he didn’t bother with unnecessary movements, but he had excellent timing, and sense of rhythm, making it easy to hit the tiles in time to the music. Marinette, on the other hand…

Well, she was clearly more into it. Her smile was broad as she danced, nailing her moves with ease despite taking her eyes off the screen to do twirls, and moving to the beat as much as she was playing the game. And he was losing; badly, in fact.

The song ended, and as it did, Marinette dropped her feet on the last two arrows, giving him a triumphant grin. Holding up her hand, she gave him a peace sign.

“Who’s the champion now?” Damian laughed, giving her a grin.

“I definitely underestimated you, angel. How did you do that? You nailed every single one.” Marinette hummed as they hopped off, grabbing their jackets. She tied the sleeves of her hoodie around her waist, and slipped the strap of her purse over her shoulder as they moved away to make room for some kids who had wandered over.

Marinette shrugged as they headed to some of the prize winning games outside of the building.

“I’ve had a lot of practice,” She gave him a grin as he took her hand in his, “Like I said, I am the reigning champion of Game night, mon petit oiseau.” Damian flushed, but he still gave her a grin.

“Is that my nickname, then?” Marinette giggled, stopping to peer at one of the games.

“‘Little bird’ suits you, I think.” Damian stayed silent on how accurate it really was (nor did he mention how she called him her little bird), but offered her a smile and a nod.

“That’s fair.” He looked at the game Marinette was peering at, recognizing it as the Bottle toppler; throw a ball, and try to knock down all the bottles. He recalled Grayson gleefully telling him about how some travelling carnivals rigged their games, and he glanced at Marinette, hoping she wouldn’t get ripped off. He watched as she studied the game for a moment before she approached, and paid the five dollars to play. Damian stepped up next to her as she picked up her first ball.

“Angel, are you sure you want to play this one?” He glared at the attendant who simply grinned, shrugging his shoulders. Marinette nodded, rolling the ball in her hand.

“Definitely. I am going home with that cat plushie.” Damian looked at the cat plush in question, and snorted. It was a fuzzy thing, fairly average all things considered; with black fur, and green eyes, the only thing that stood out was the grumpy look on its stitched face. Damian shrugged, standing back to leave her plenty of room. The attendant smiled.

“To get that black cat, you’ll have to knock down all three towers, little lady. Think you’re up for it?” Marinette returned the smile, nodding instead of answering verbally. She looked at the first tower of bottles, and Damian watched her analyze it before she adjusted the grip on the ball in her hand, and let it fly. The bottles fell.

The attendant quietly handed Marinette the next ball, and she just. Smiled that same innocent smile she’d had since the beginning. Damian was slowly beginning to realize that that was the smile she got when she knew she would win.

The next tower fell with little deliberation on her part, but the final one made her pause. The attendant was looking rather smug, and Marinette’s eyes were bouncing around the booth rapidly; but not in a panic. Finally, her smile returned.

“Excuse me sir, could I ask that you step aside please?” The attendant looked at her in confusion, glancing from where he was over to the tower; he arched a brow.

“You sure, little lady?” Marinette simply nodded, and the man shrugged before stepping out of his booth. With a small adjustment, Damian watched as she threw her last ball. Only…

Where the hell was she throwing it??

He watched the ball as it banked off the ceiling to the wall behind the bottles, and then it crashed straight through the bottom middle one. Immediately, the tower of bottles collapsed in on itself, and a whistle sounded signalling she’d won. Marinette jumped up and down, clapping her hands, as the stunned attendant handed her the black cat plush. She squeezed it, thanking the man profusely, as she took Damian’s hand and they walked away. Damian stared at her.

“Why did you do it that way?” Marinette hummed, offering him a conspiratorial smile.

“There was a lip at the back of the bottles to keep them from falling backwards, and small indentations in the platform to help keep them more steady.” She shrugged, “I figured taking them down from behind would be more effective. The angle was tricky though.” She made a sour expression, and stuck her tongue out, “I hate having to do things like that, but this kitty was coming home with me, one way or another, dangit.” Damian laughed.

“That was some solid planning, angel. Nicely done.” Marinette positively beamed, her smile bright, and Damian felt some of the tension leak out of his shoulders. He’d never really found the company of another person to be so relaxing, and it left an odd feeling fluttering in his chest. It made him feel silly, and normally he’d squash that under the heel of his boot; between the conditioning from his mother, and the stoicism he’d adopted around his family, Damian consistently had problems with anything besides quiet disdain, or outright apathy.

Was this the kind of feeling he’d been missing out on all these years? This warmth enveloping his chest as he watched Marinette hug the cat plush to her face, smiling at him with such sincere care that his heart hurt; he’d been missing out on this for so long. As he listened to her talk, Damian thought back on his relationship with Raven, it being his only real point of reference.

He’d known he had strong feelings for Raven after he’d joined the Titans, and the entire incident that had followed after that. They’d started dating shortly after a year had passed, and though Damian would not have described himself as overjoyed, he had been happy with Raven; she’d been good to him, and he, her. They’d been together for awhile, up until they were about 17, and they’d been broken up for nearly two years now. They still spoke, and were good friends and teammates, in fact. But when Damian asked himself if he’d been in love with her, it had always been hard to tell.

He loved Raven, yes, but was he in love with her had been a constant nagging in the back of his mind for ages, until one day, Raven in her typical fashion, simply came up to him.

“Hey, so like, don’t take this the wrong way, and it’s nothing you did, but I think I might be gay.” And Damian, well, admittedly, he’d thought that made a lot of sense. He’d asked if they could still be friends, and Raven had actually rolled her eyes.

“Don’t be an idiot, Damian.”

And that had been the way things had been since.

Damian smiled as Marinette spoke about a jacket she was planning on making during her stay in Gotham. Her eyes lit up when she spoke about her passions, and Damian found himself rather fond of that.

Fond of her, in fact.  

“Damian?” He focused his eyes back on Marinette, giving her a small smile, “What are you thinking about?” And Damian didn’t see the point in lying.

“You, angel.” Her cheeks turned red so fast Damian was almost concerned, but she tripped a moment later. She caught herself before he could, just stumbling a little.

“You shouldn’t say stuff like that, Damian!” He smiled at her embarrassment, and she groaned.

“Sorry, I call it like I see it, angel; and you have been on my mind far longer than I care to admit.” She grew more flustered, and Damian backpedalled a bit, “Though if anything I say or do makes you uncomfortable, I would hope you’ll tell me.” Marinette bit her lip, glancing at him; her cheeks were still a rosy shade, and Damian was smitten.

“It… It doesn’t make me uncomfortable, it’s just embarrassing,” She paused, staring out into space, “Adrien’s really the only person who ever… said stuff like that to me, and I’m not really used to it.” Damian nodded.

“Then I can stop.” Marinette flushed brighter.

“Ah, you don’t have to! I-I mean, um,” Ignoring the teasing smile on Damian’s face, Marinette fiddled with the strap of her bag, “It’s… kind of nice when you do it, petit oiseau. It’s funny, and you’re not overwhelming.” She gave him a hesitant smile, “I hope that makes sense.” Damian nodded, bringing their hands up to his mouth, and kissing the back of hers. Marinette stared at him as their hands lowered back between them.

“As you wish.”

Marinette remained flustered, but she gave him a bright smile in response, and the two soon lost themselves in the booth games around them. It quickly became a competition, seeing who, between the two, could get as many prizes. She won him an adorable ladybug plush, and honestly, this girl was not subtle at all; how had no one else figured out her identity yet? He’d accepted it with a small blush, trying not to think of what his brothers would say when they saw it.

Then of course, there was the plethora of other toys they’d acquired during their little competition. Damian watched as each child they passed found a toy pressed into their hands, and when Marinette ran out right as another child came up to her, she only smiled; and won the little girl a giant bunny plush from the ring toss game. Finally satisfied, Marinette had asked him if he wanted to ride the ferris wheel; it had a beautiful view of the bay, and with sunset starting soon, it was sure to be gorgeous. How could he do anything but agree?

The line wasn’t very long, given that most of the children were getting tired; the line was comprised almost completely of teenagers and other young adults. They were discussing hobbies as they claimed their spot in line.

“Wow, how did you learn so much? My maman only really trained me in a couple of things from a few different styles, so I’ve never really branched out from standard karate and judo.” Damian shrugged.

“My mother was… insistent that I be able to protect myself. I’ve learned how to fight since I could walk.” Marinette hummed, a thoughtful frown on her face.

“Forgive me if this is a bit forward of me, but that doesn’t sound very healthy, Damian.” He shook his head.

“It wasn’t. Though I didn’t get along with my father when I first came to live with him, I am glad it happened.” Damian frowned as he stared up at the ferris wheel, “My family does tend to drive me up the wall, but I can honestly say I would not be as well adjusted without them. They have helped me a great deal.” He gave her a playful glare, “And if you tell any of them I said that, I will tickle you until you die, got it?” Marinette laughed, taking in his serious expression with his ridiculous words.

“Ok, you have my word, petit oiseau. Not a word to your family about this one.” She giggled as Damian looked at her in exasperation.

“I’m beginning to think this dinner is a bad idea. You and my brothers are going to get along like a flame to gasoline.” Marinette laughed again.

“Well, Jason seems fun. I’m looking forward to getting to know Dick after what happened yesterday,” Her smile softened, “He seems like a good dad; and Tim seems really smart. I think him and Max would get along pretty well.” Damian nodded as they stepped up and were let onto the bench of the ferris wheel. He scooted over, making sure to give Marinette plenty of room, and helped her stay steady while she stepped up and sat next to him.

“That’s very likely. You said he built that little robot that follows him?” Marinette nodded, offering the attendant a smile as he lowered the safety bar in front of them. The bench swung a bit as the ride moved them forward for the next pair to get on, and Marinette giggled.

“Max made Markov years ago, when we were about 13 if I remember correctly. We might’ve been 14 though.” Her smile fell, “It’s harder for me to remember than I thought it would be.” Their thighs brushed together, and Damian’s hold on her hand tightened ever so slightly, his face flushing.

“That’s ok, don’t push yourself, angel.” He smiled as she looked over at him, “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to, you know. I won’t hold it against you.” Damian shrugged, “After all, you’ve only known me for a day; it would be inappropriate to expect you to spill all your secrets.” His smile turned sly, “I’d much rather have you tell me because you want to, angel.” Marinette flushed, giving him a small smile in response.

“I… look forward to trusting you with them, Damian.”

The ride stopped once again, and both of them looked up in time to see the sun sink behind the skyline of the buildings on the other side of the harbor. The sky was painted a lovely golden shade of orange, with bright shades of pink lingering towards the sky farthest from the sun; the purple/blue shade of night had yet to creep in. And then the ferris wheel was spinning properly, and Marinette was laughing in joy. All Damian could do was stare, watching her eyes crinkle in delight, and mapping out the freckles on her cheeks like they were constellations that would lead him home.

She turned, giving him a wide smile, and squeezing his hand.

“Thank you, Damian. For today.” Damian’s small smile was soft as he nodded.

“Anytime, angel.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Marinette rides with the class back to the hotel after their festivities at the pier conclude. Damian assures her he’ll be by to pick her up by 7:45, and they exchange phone numbers;  he kisses her hand before she gets on the bus, and Marinette is sure she’s going to die. Chloe is quick to playfully tease her once they take their seats in the back, Alix giving them a grin. With the inclusion of Kim and Max, and Rose and Juleka, Marinette can’t hear the nasty things Lila is saying about her; it’s a surprisingly fun time.

Nino is conspicuously absent from Alya’s side, and Marinette spots him sitting with Madame Bustier in the front. Odd.

Once back at the hotel, Chloe whisked Marinette away to their room, Alix, Rose, and Juleka close behind. Marinette laughed as she watched Chloe dig through her suitcases, the girls settled in the living room of the suite.

“Chloe, I already had an outfit in mind.” Chloe scoffed, holding up one of the skirts Marinette brought with her before she nodded, and tossed it to Juleka.

“Too bad, DC, I’m picking it. I can’t have you embarrass yourself in front of the Waynes. That just would not be stylish, my dear.” Marinette laughed, and Alix rolled her eyes from where she was lounging on the couch with Rose; the two girls were enjoying watching Chloe and Juleka fuss over Marinette’s appearance for her “date”.

So far, Chloe had decided on her red flats, black leggings, with a pleated dark grey skirt. She was searching for a suitable shirt now, flinging clothes around the room. Marinette sighed, watching her friend.

“How about this shirt, Chlo?” Chloe paused in her digging, turning to Marinette with an assessing eye.

It was Marinette’s favorite blouse, one she’d made about a year prior. It was white, made from a roll of batiste she’d picked up at the fabric store ages ago; the sleeves’ cuffs were form fitting around her wrists, while the sleeves themselves were a bit puffy, billowing out. Pale pink lace adorned the collar, and the cuffs; and the buttons were pale pink, bringing the shirt together.

Chloe’s eyes narrowed as she glanced at the clothes she’d already picked, and back to the shirt she’d discarded.

“That… Is acceptable. Good find, Mari-bear.” Marinette rolled her eyes good naturedly, and handed the shirt to Juleka, who laid it out with the skirt and leggings. Chloe moved on to digging through Marinette’s accessories, and Juleka surprised her by sitting behind her.

“An over the shoulder braid will look really cute with this. Do you mind, Mari?” Marinette smiled, and shook her head.

“No, go ahead, Jules.”

Marinette’s shoulders relaxed as Juleka hesitantly started brushing her hair; it brought a bittersweet sense of deja vu that had Marinette smiling to herself. She zoned out, feeling Juleka’s hands in her hair while the girl braided. Marinette found herself reflecting on the day she’d had. It felt like a whirlwind, so much happening so quickly; it was nice to finally have a breather.

She still hadn’t found a chance to talk to Tikki about earlier, either. She was sure Damian had seen her bag jump when one of the kwamis jolted harshly; but he hadn’t said anything, so maybe not. Marinette chewed her lip as she thought.

And Damian.

Her cheeks flushed, and she valiantly fought the embarrassment trying to take root. She had been telling the truth earlier; he was a good friend, an amazing one even. And he had a ridiculously cute face when he got that weird little smirk on his face. She scowled, pouting as she thought about how flustered she’d got when he kissed her hand in front of the entire class.

She was totally going to get him back. Somehow. Eventually.

Marinette sighed, taking a deep breath.

‘I can do this. It’s just a dinner with a new friend and his family. Yeah! It’s not like you’ve already got a giant dumb crush on him or something!’ Marinette groaned, missing how Juleka giggled to herself as she continued braiding Marinette’s hair.

Gods, she was going to embarrass the hell out of herself, wasn’t she?

Damian was so nice though, it was harder to not have a crush on him, in her defense.

Well, that’s what she told herself at least.

And then a voice that sounded suspiciously like Tim chimed in with, ‘Ah but he wants to be nice to you; that’s a big deal for Damian.’

Marinette’s face flushed quickly, and she slapped her hands over her cheeks. Juleka and Rose jumped, while Alix began snickering; Chloe continued picking accessories, ignoring her friend’s dramatics.

“Marinette? You ok?” Marinette glanced back at Juleka, and smiled at her.

“I’m fine, Jules, just psyching myself up.” Without missing a beat, Chloe scoffed, finding a necklace to complete the look.

“Please. You are so nervous I can hear your overthinking from over here, DC.” Chloe grabbed the outfit she’d selected, and brought it over, “Now enough of this, go get changed so we can do your make-up. Your lover boy is going to be here by 7:45, if not earlier.” Marinette stuck her tongue out at Chloe while Juleka tied her braid off with a small red hair tie. A moment later, Marinette was slipping into the bathroom to change, and Chloe set about organizing the accessories she’d picked; she’d settled on a simple black choker, and a couple rings. Earrings, after all, were currently out of the question, and the cuffs of Marinette’s sleeves wouldn’t allow for much in terms of bracelets without looking cluttered. Chloe pouted at the fact; playing dress up with Marinette was always so much fun.

“I hope she has a good time.” Chloe looks over at Rose, who is staring towards the bathroom with a sad look in her eyes. Juleka nodded, gripping Rose’s hand.

“Me too.” Chloe observes them for a moment before she smiles.

“She will. Mari-bear really likes him.” Alix snorted, rolling over and grinning at Chloe.

“She’s on cloud nine with him, for sure. She wasn’t even this goo goo over you know who.” Chloe nodded, sharing a grimace with the other girls. She thinks back to what Nino had told her earlier, and she sighs.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t go like that again.”

Rose hummed, her smile growing soft.

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that. I saw how they look at each other.” Juleka nodded, a sly smile on her face.

“Not yet, but soon I think.” Chloe nodded sagely, but before she could speak she heard an exasperated sigh.

“What weird things are you guys talking about now?” They turned back towards the bathroom to see Marinette standing there, dressed up, and adorable. Alix ‘aww’ed’ obnoxiously, and Chloe grinned, circling Marinette. The blouse really did tie in well with the skirt, the pink accents popping thanks to the neutral colors; and the red flats drew the eye, the color tying in with the pink. All in all, Chloe had to hand it to herself; Damian wouldn’t know what hit him.

Marinette accepted the accessories Chloe offered, and then Rose was sitting her down, and spreading her make-up out on the table. Rose chose a glossy cherry pink for her lips, and settled for only doing mascara and a bit of eyeliner when Marinette’s phone chimed. The girl yelped, thankful Rose had already moved away, and scrambled for her phone where she’d plugged it in.

She was not risking a dead cell phone in Gotham; no thank you.

[Unknown] Hey, I’m almost there. It’s Damian btw.

Marinette’s smile was telling, and Chloe rolled her eyes fondly. Marinette saved the number, and typed out her reply.

“Lover boy here?” Marinette frowned over her shoulder at Chloe as she hit send.

[Me] Ok! See you soon! :D

“He’s not my lover boy, and no he’s not here yet. He was just letting me know he’s on his way.” Alix hummed, a grin on her face.

“Aww, that’s sweet of him.” Marinette’s smile turned a little dopey as she nodded; then she seemed to realize what she was doing, and shook her head. Alix just shook her head at her friend’s antics.

“I’m a little nervous guys.” Juleka nodded, placing her hand on Marinette’s shoulder.

“That’s understandable. Remember, you don’t have to go if you don’t want to Mari.” Marinette smiled at her, but shook her head.

“I’m excited to go, I just…” Her cheeks grew red, and she groaned, “WHY is he so cute?! What gives him the right?” Chloe was laughing, Alix joining her a moment later; Rose and Juleka shared a knowing smile, amusement dancing in their eyes. Chloe recovered first, giving Marinette a grin as she wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

“Oh, Mari-bear… you’ve got it bad.” Marinette’s face grew in color, and she scoffed.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have anything.” Alix broke off into more laughter, and Marinette jumped when her phone dinged again; she dove across the table, grabbing it with both hands.

[Damian] Here.

Marinette smiled, fingers flying over her keyboard.

[Me] Ok, be down in a moment! ^-^

The second she hit send, Marinette grabbed her purse, and shoved her phone in; Kaalki and Tikki both offered her reassuring smiles from inside her bag. Marinette thought she glimpsed something else, but didn’t have time to dwell on it as she zipped the bag, and pulled her hoodie on, zipping it up. Chloe pouted.

“Aww, you’re going to wear that too? It’s so ugly!” Marinette laughed, glad the hoodie was so big; it really kept her warm. Marinette stuck her tongue out at Chloe again.

“Big deal, it’s warm, Bee.” Chloe clicked her tongue as she glared at the Robin hoodie as if it had personally offended her.

“Fine. I’m guessing he’s here?” Marinette nodded as she swung her purse over her shoulder, heading for the door.

“Yep, so I gotta go now, bye!” Before Marinette could make it out the door, she felt a hand settle on her shoulder; she turned to find Chloe smiling at her.

“Wait for me, Mari-bear.”

Marinette groaned.

Chloe was going to threaten him, wasn’t she?

Chloe rode the elevator down to the lobby with her, and Marinette noticed the sly smile on her friend’s face. It worried her. It didn’t help that Chloe didn’t say a word as they crossed the lobby towards the doors. Once out on the street, Marinette shivered a bit as a cool breeze blew by; she was thankful she brought the jacket with her now.

Damian was waiting for her, stood next to a nice black car just a little ways to the left of the hotel entrance; and Chloe smiled as his eyes landed on her best friend.

Damian’s eyes grew wide as he looked at her, and Marinette smiled when she saw him.

“Damian!” Chloe hung back as the boy smiled and walked over, meeting Marinette halfway.

“Angel, you look adorable.” Chloe snorted as Marinette flushed, and she joined the two.

“I told you, you looked cute.” She rolled her eyes, giving Damian a look of misery, “She never believes me, I swear. Maybe you can convince her, Damian dear.” Damian blinked, surprised to see such a sly smirk on Chloe’s face; though he didn’t miss the embarrassed squeak from Marinette.

“Chloe! Stop that!” Chloe pouted, but gave her friend a smile.

“Fiiiine~.” The blonde turned back to Damian, “I expect her back no later than 10, Wayne. Got it?” Damian smiled, nodding.

“I expected nothing less.” Chloe gave a satisfied nod, and then smiled at Marinette.

“You go have fun, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Marinette snorted, giving her a snarky grin.

“That is not sound advice, Chlo.” Chloe huffed.

Rude.

Marinette laughed, waving at her friend as she and Damian walked over to the car. He opened the back door for her, and Marinette stepped in, surprised at the amount of room; an older man sat behind the wheel, and Damian soon climbed in after her.

“Marinette, this is Alfred. He’s our butler, but he’s a part of my family first.” Marinette smiled.

“It’s nice to meet you, Alfred! Thank you for picking me up.” Alfred nodded, a small smile on his face as they pulled out into traffic.

“It’s not a problem, miss Marinette.”

Damian stared at her as she smiled, blown away by how cute she looked. He flushed, and cleared his throat; Marinette turned to look at him.

“I meant what I said. You look very cute, Marinette.” Marinette giggled, her cheeks turning pink.

“Wait till you see the whole outfit! I’m actually so proud of Chloe for picking this; she did a good job.” Damian nodded, and tried not to dwell on the fact that she was wearing his merch; he was not embarrassed, damnit. Damian Wayne did not get embarrassed. Though now that she mentioned it, he was curious; all he could really see of her outfit was her red flats and black leggings. Every once in awhile, under the hoodie, he glimpsed the hem of her skirt, but Damian refused to let his eyes linger too long; he wasn’t trying to be rude.

Damian smiled as he listened to her talk about her friends.

Perhaps dinner would go better than he thought.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Adrien sat in his room at the hotel, with his head buried in his hands.

He had hurt her.

He’d seen the bruises on her skin, the blood.

He had done that.

No one else.

Adrien grit his teeth, and then winced violently at the pain in his cheek. He’d just gotten back from the hospital with Ms. Mendeleiev; Chloe had fractured his cheek, and nearly dislocated his jaw. It had been an excellent hit.

And honestly, he couldn’t find it in himself to blame her for her viciousness.

He hadn’t meant to hurt Marinette; he really had just wanted to talk. Then he’d noticed that she’d hardly even look at him, and he couldn’t figure out why, and it was killing him. He’d gotten so frustrated. He hadn’t meant to grab her so hard.

The door slamming shut had Adrien jumping out of his skin, whirling towards his bedroom door as it swung open, crashing into the wall.

Nino was on him in an instant, grabbing Adrien by the collar of his shirt and slamming him into the wall. Adrien gripped his friend’s hands, but did nothing else.

“How could you do that to her!! To Marinette!” Nino shouted, “Did you see those marks, Adrien?! Did you see how much you hurt her?!” Adrien bit his lip, and Nino panted, trying to catch his breath; his eyes narrowed.

“I can’t believe you did that, Adrien. What the fuck, dude? That’s not you!” Nino growled, shoving him more into the wall, “Give me a reason why I shouldn’t end your ass right here!” Adrien held his hands up, his head hanging.

“I don’t have one, Nino. You’re right; I hurt her.” Nino paused, his glare lessening a bit, though his scowl remained. “I didn’t mean to. But I did anyway. I… It was wrong.”

Adrien’s voice was soft.

“I’ve really fucked it up this time, Nino. I’m sorry.”

And Nino watched as Adrien Agreste broke down into tears, sliding down to the carpet with a soft thump as his hands fell away from the blonde’s shirt.

Nino sighed.

‘I swear, I will kill Gabriel Agreste one day. I am going to prison. This is what happens when you isolate your damn kids. God, I hate that guy….’

Nino does his best to console his best friend (though that status is up in the air still), and he’s there to help Adrien breathe when the boy starts to hyperventilate. Nino almost regrets getting involved.

Then he remembers what he and Chloe discussed, and he sighs.

He always ends up involved one way or the other. Seems to be his thing, consoling his friends.

Nino decides there are worse things.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Harley ;P @vroomVroomBB

@iVYLeague Darlin’ we gotta meet the

girl who got to that clown! :D I wanna meet

her, like yesterday! #sheissotiny #butsobadass

#newWayne? #inTHISeconomy??

#MoreLikelythanyouthink

 

Pamela @iVYLeague

@vroomVroomBB ….Maybe later, dear.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter Text

If Damian had broken a few road rules in his eagerness to return to the manor, well…

The only one who could prove it was Tim. And maybe Barbara now that he thought about it, but it was irrelevant.  

He parked his car in the garage, next to his civilian bike, and hurried into the house. He managed to dodge Jason and Barbara, but Cass was waiting for him in his room. Damian sighed when he opened his door to find her sat at his desk on the other side of his bed. She offered him a small smile.

“I see you’re visiting from Hong Kong.” Cass shrugged, a small motion, as Damian moved to his closet for a clean shirt.

“Just in time for you to fall in love, I hear little brother.” Damian rolled his eyes even as his treacherous cheeks grew red. Would Marinette be disappointed if he wore black on black?

….probably.

“I don’t know what Jason and Dick have told you, but I am not in love.”

‘Yet…’

Now his mind was against him too; great.

Cass hummed, and Damian valiantly did not jump when she silently reached past him and grabbed a dark green button up. She stepped back as Damian turned around, and held it up to his chest.

“This will do; brings out your eyes, little bird.” Cass smirked, handing it to him, “The little bug will love you in it.”

Damian’s eyes narrowed as he took the shirt, “Don’t call her a bug.” Cass shrugged, sitting in his desk chair once more. She raised a brow as she crossed her legs.

“But she is. She is the Ladybug.” Damian tensed.

“Who told you that?” And Cass laughed.

“No one told me. I’ve known about the Paris situation for years.” Cass’ smile was sharp, and all too knowing, “She is… family, in a way.”

Damian’s head rang with alarm bells, and he glared at his sister.

“Given your history, Cass, I would really like for you to elaborate.” Her eyes sparkled with mirth as Damian pulled his henley over his head, leaving him in his black A tank; he shrugged on the button up Cass had handed him while she spoke. 

“Well, my mother had other family, as most people do. Though she never bothered to look into them.” At Damian’s questioning glance, she elaborated, “Many years ago, there were two sisters; one left China to explore the world, and the other eventually gave birth to my mother.” Cass’ smile softened a bit, “Your little angel is as much my family as you are, little bird. Make sure to treat her well.” 

Damian huffed as he finished buttoning his shirt, giving Cass a flat look, “Why does everyone keep saying that? You all act like I’m going to skin her alive.” Cass watched him for a moment, before she hummed. 

“Did you know, Damian, that the Japanese have a saying.” Her smile was soft, but coy, “Koi no yokan is the feeling that upon first meeting someone that it is inevitable that you will fall in love with them.” Cass’ smile grew as she watched Damian blush; he’d finished with his shirt, and ran a hand through his hair, brushing it back out of his face. “Does that sound about right, little brother?” 

Damian glared at her, but it lacked the venom usually behind it; and Cass knew she’d hit the mark. She sighed, and pushed herself to her feet, patting Damian on the shoulder as she walked by. 

“I’ll see you at dinner. Think about what I said.” And then she was gone, the door clicking softly behind her.

‘How am I going to do anything besides that’ he thought in despair, groaning as he collapsed on his bed; his shirt wrinkled as he buried his face in his pillow.

Today had genuinely been one of the best days he’d had in… God, he couldn’t even remember. 

And Marinette... 

Damian groaned again, burrowing his face further into his pillow.

He shouldn’t be like this. He’d dated before, the whole package, and everything that came with it. Damian was not someone who lost his composure; and yet, consistently throughout the day, Marinette had managed to shed just a bit of light into the otherwise dreary city. He had genuinely enjoyed her company; had found himself thoroughly ensnared, listening to her speak.

He rolled over, staring at the clock on his bedside table, the 7:16 PM glaring at him in red. He’d need to leave soon to make it in time. Feeling butterflies in his stomach, Damian groaned, and forced himself to sit up. He could do this, goddamnit. He was not some easily embarrassed prepubescent brat anymore.

He pulled on his shoes before heading over to his door; he opened it, and jumped slightly, surprised to see Alfred on the other side, his hand raised to knock. The older man blinked, stunned, before he smiled.

“Ah, Master Damian, I was just coming to get you. It’s about time to leave, yes?” Damian nodded, stepping past Alfred as the man moved aside.

“Thank you Alfred. Yes, we can go now.” Alfred nodded.

“I’ll bring the car around.”

“Thank you Alfred, I appreciate it.” Alfred offered him a small smile before he disappeared down the hall, towards the garage, while Damian made his way towards the front of the house.

God, why was he so nervous? He’d had friends over for dinner before (despite what a mess the Titans had made, they were… friends), so why did this feel so different? So what if he really liked being around her? Damian thought about what Cass had said to him.

‘Koi no yokan, huh…”

He thought about bumping into her, surprised, and more than a little curious; no young woman should be on the streets of Gotham alone. He had been shocked to find himself wanting to get to know her, asking for elaboration on things he never would have normally; but there was something, something so curious about her, and he had to know. This girl was turning into the most beautiful, fascinating puzzle Damian had ever come across, and he wished to know as much as possible. He’d thought that maybe once he’d learned about her identity as Ladybug, maybe the feeling would ebb some; if anything, it had only grown stronger. It had found him asking more questions over the day.

He grimaced as he thought about the several times he’d nearly put his foot in his mouth.

Damian thought about talking to her, and the easy rapport they’d carried through the day; and she trusted him. Which honestly would’ve worried him more, if he hadn’t realized she was a damn superhero. Damian scowled, stuffing his hands in his pockets while he waited for Alfred out front of the manor. It was no wonder she’d had such a haunted look in her eyes when discussing Paris’ own tragedies; she was the one shouldering that burden, with Chloe as her back-up. He wasn’t surprised the blonde was so protective of her; he could hardly blame her.

As Alfred pulled up, Damian opened the door and climbed in, and they were off to Marinette’s hotel. Damian found himself staring out the window. He hadn’t been lying when he’d told Jason that he liked Marinette more than he should. The problem was nothing felt too fast; he’d felt more at peace in Marinette’s presence than he had in years.

And in a world full of magic, and other such things?

Well, that was hardly the weirdest thing he’d ever encountered.

The rational side of his mind told him to be wary; he’d seen his family played for fools too many times already to be so trusting. But he also knew that the only time Marinette had lied to him was in regards to her identity; and he’d be quite the hypocrite to hold that against her. He realized with a start that they’d already hit the city proper, and pulled his phone out to send Marinette a quick text.

[Me]: Hey, I’m almost there. It’s Damian btw.  

He turned his head, watching the buildings go by until his phone buzzed with a reply.

[Angel]: Ok! See you soon! :D  

Damian smiled, setting the phone on the seat next to him; the butterflies were back. He wasn’t supposed to think of how cute she was; she was the first new friend he’d made in ages, and he’d done it on his own. No team building, no annoying super brat, just him, and the perfectly average girl he’d managed to befriend…

Who also happened to be a fucking superhero.

Damian laughed at the irony before he realized Alfred was pulling up to the hotel. He sent her another text.

[Me]: Here.

And not a moment later-

[Angel]: Ok, be down in a moment! ^-^

He smiled a bit, happy to see that she was - hopefully?? - excited. Once Alfred parked, Damian stepped out of the car, watching the entrance of the building. And honestly, he couldn’t have missed her if he tried; she was wearing his hoodie again.

He would forever deny the weird things it did to his heart, seeing her in his colors. Her hair was braided to the side, but the only other part of her outfit he could see were her red flats, and the black leggings; given her passion for fashion design, he was looking forward to seeing the outfits she came up with. He walked to meet her, giving her a smile, with Chloe not a step behind her.

“Angel, you look adorable.”

He was surprised at the sly look on Chloe’s face as the two bantered, and then Chloe was turning her attention to him.

“I expect her back no later than 10, Wayne. Got it?” And he did.

Soon, they were back in the car, and on their way to the manor. Alfred let them talk with minimal interruption, and Damian was sure the man was having a laugh at his expense.

She told him about her friends and how they’d sat with her while she got ready; about how Chloe chose her outfit. Honestly, Damian felt like he could listen to her all day.

“But I’m tired of telling you all about me. What about you Damian? So far all you’ve really told me is your name, and your history in martial arts.” Marinette’s smile was teasing, but he had to agree; he’d been encouraging her to talk for most of their day. He shrugged leaning more fully back into the seat of the car.

“Well, I like animals; I’ve got a few pets at home.” Marinette’s eyes lit up, and she leaned forward eagerly.

“Ooh, what do you have?” Damian blinked, a bit stunned by her enthusiasm before he smiled.

“There’s Titus, my dog. He’s a great dane, and was a gift from my father.” Damian snorted, “Then there’s Alfred the Cat.” Marinette laughed, and Damian shrugged, giving her a grin, “Don’t judge; there’s also Batcow.” Marinette’s grin was huge.

“You have a cow?” Damian flushed a bit, but nodded.

“Yes, I rescued her from a slaughterhouse a few years back. She’s got a bat symbol on her face, so, ya know…” He shrugged, “Batcow.” And Marinette was laughing, taking his hand in hers while she did so.

“That is the sweetest thing, petit oiseau! Will you let me meet her?” Damian felt the sharp look from Alfred without even having to look up; he gave her a smile.

“Maybe another time, angel. It’s been a pretty busy day already.” She hummed, nodding with a small smile on her face.

“That’s fair. I think it’ll be fun to meet your family, officially I mean; I was surprised to see Dick leading the tour today,” Marinette frowned slightly, looking up at him, “He seemed ok though, despite what happened yesterday.” Damian grimaced.

“I hate to tell you, Marinette, but most of my family is… very used to situations like yesterday. The Rogues of Gotham tend to target us more often than not.” He scowled, staring down at his lap, “If you want to keep your distance because of that, I would understand. I’m not exactly a safe person to be around.”

Damian was not prepared for Marinette to start laughing at him, light and cheerful, but full of mirth. In the front seat, Alfred snorted, covering his smile with his hand. Damian merely gave the two a flat look, and waited for Marinette to come back to herself. She wiped her eyes before smiling broadly.

“Damian, I’m not going to stop being your friend just because your family is targeted. Everyone in my class are targets at home everyday; it’s something I’m used to.” Marinette shrugged, “Though it does explain why your brother was at work despite what happened.” Damian sighed.

“Grayson should not be used as a basis for comparison, angel. He’s suffered a few too many hits to the head.” Marinette tilted her head, amusement shining in her eyes.

“How so?”

It was Damian’s turn to shrug.

“He’s a gymnast. He’s missed his nets a few too many times, and it’s led to irreparable damage to his brain. Don’t mind him.” Marinette laughed at his flat delivery of the joke, and the serious look on his face, and Damian felt himself soften as he watched her laugh.

He never stood a chance, honestly. How was this fair? Damian covered the bottom of his face with his free hand, glancing away. The heat in his cheeks refused to fade, and he cursed it.

….But seriously; how was this fair?

He figures it’s no wonder that they say, ‘To see an angel is to go blind’; Damian thinks it makes total sense, as he watches her laugh in utter delight. She calms down, wiping tears of mirth from the corner of her eye as she smiles at him. It’s surprisingly cheeky, if not a bit sarcastic, honestly.

“I don’t think he’d appreciate that, Damian.” He snorts, and goes to respond when Alfred interrupts.

“Pardon me, but we’ve arrived.”

And Damian is startled to find that, yes, that is definitely the manor outside the car. Huh.

‘Shit.”

Marinette snorts, falling into more laughter next to him, and Damian flushes when he realizes, yes, he absolutely said that out loud; like a dork. In front of the girl he sorta, kinda, really liked.

Who also happened to be a fucking superhero, good job Wayne.

Marinette squeezes his hand, and he looks at her, a bit startled; she offers him a reassuring smile.

“Don’t worry; we’ll keep them in line, hmm?” The way she says it is so soft, so delicate, that Damian can’t help but grin; she was more mischievous than he thought. And there was that confidence again, burning brightly in her eyes. Without stopping to think about his actions, Damian brought their hands up to his lips, and kissed her knuckles. Marinette’s cheeks promptly turned red, and Damian’s smile grew just a bit teasing.

“If they don’t listen to you, angel, they’re a lost cause. Might as well cut our losses, I think.” And then Marinette was laughing again, and Damian felt the butterflies return with a vengeance; her joy was infectious, and he couldn’t keep the smile off his face if he tried. Alfred chose that moment to open the door next to him, and Damian found the car had long stopped.

Alfred’s gaze was knowing as he stood to the side.

“Shall we, master Damian?”

Damian cleared his throat, his cheeks still a bit red, and nodded.

“Ah, yes, let’s head inside. I’m sure the menagerie is rabid by now.” Marinette broke into giggles again, and Damian grinned as he stepped out of the car; he was having a surprising amount of fun. He turned, and offered Marinette his hand as she scooted to the edge of the car. Her smile was broad, joy permeating her very being; she placed her hand in his.

“I don’t think they’ll appreciate that either, petit oiseau.” Damian shrugged as she stood, taking his hand in hers; they started walking towards the door of the manor, not all that concerned with how fast they got there.

“They appreciate nothing, it’s fine.” Marinette snorted, covering her mouth as she giggled, and she shook her head; finally, she sighed.

“Oh, to have siblings…” Damian caught the slightly sad, wistful look on her face, and nearly winced with the force of the sting in chest; uh, fucking ow, what the hell? He cleared his throat, giving her a small smile as she looked at him.

“If it’s siblings you want, feel free to have some of mine; careful, though. Not all of them are house trained.”

“Now baby bird, that’s just not right.”

Marinette is still laughing, so Damian counts it as a win, despite Dick’s interference; he hadn’t realized they’d gotten so close to the manor, and honestly, he would not be surprised if Dick had been watching out the window. He wasn’t always the patient type.

Damian glares at his oldest brother as they walk through the front door, but nods.

“But it is true.” Dick pouts, and honestly, no grown man should make that face; Damian turns to Marinette with a grimace, and squeezes her hand.

“You sure you’re up for this, angel?”

Marinette just smiles, and grips his hand just a bit.

“I wouldn’t dream of backing down now.” 

And Damian’s heart sings.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

When Marinette had pictured Wayne Manor, she had thought of something maybe a similar size to the Agreste household; this was not even close. Wayne Manor was resplendent against the darkening sky, exterior lights already glowing, and washing the gardens in soft light. Marinette was itching to see the gardens as she shrugged out of her jacket, and handed it to Alfred, thanking him. Damian tapped his thumb against her hand, and she turned to him as he twined their fingers together.

“We can tour the gardens after dinner if you like. They’re quite lovely at night.” His smile was sly, and Marinette guessed she hadn’t been very subtle about her eagerness. She smiled sheepishly, shrugging a shoulder.

“Sorry, they looked really amazing. I kind of have a thing about plants.” Damian fought to keep his grin under control; she was a ladybug, of course she had a thing about plants. “I would love a tour, though, thank you for offering.”

“Wow, it’s worse than I thought.” Damian’s face fell into a scowl as he turned to regard Tim, who was leaning against the wall near the formal dining room; as usual, the same ugly tan mug of coffee was glued to his hand. Dick stood next to him, looking far too gleeful to be safe. Marinette giggled as Damian sighed; Damian looked at her, raising an eyebrow.

“What happened to keeping them in line, hm?” Marinette’s bright smile falls into something much more devious, and she holds a finger up to her lips. She watches Damian blush a bit, his eyes widening; it’s an endearing look, she thinks.

“Don’t worry, they won’t know what hit them.”

“You do realize we are right here, yeah?”

Now Damian groans, because there’s Jason; they haven’t even made it out of the welcome hall, and already he’s dealing with his brothers. Then he remembers he’s not dealing with them alone, when Marinette shrugs, smiling in that innocent way she does.

“Oh, yes, of course we know. The question you should be asking is, do we care?” Tim’s mouth dropped, Dick was already doubled over in silent laughter, and Damian saw Jason raise an eyebrow, clearly scandalized; but Marinette just smiled.

“And the answer is nope!” She popped the ‘p’ emphatically, and Damian grinned, looking at her. Where was this attitude around her class? Was this what she’d been like, when she talked about the time before Rossi? Because if so, Damian was going to absolutely destroy the girl for ever making Marinette doubt herself.

Dick recovered first, as he gasped for air.

“That might have been the most adorable ‘shut the fuck up’ I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Tim simply cleared his throat, shook his head, and walked away, “I’ll be in the chair.”

Finally Jason blinked, and Damian frowned at the ridiculous grin his brother soon got.

“Todd-”

“Pixie stick, you are a veritable firecracker, you know that?” Marinette’s smile was an easy one, open, and trusting.

“You should meet my maman.” Jason looks positively gleeful at the idea, and Damian’s eyes narrow.

“No, Todd.” Jason rolls his eyes, looking at Marinette.

“Why do you like him? He’s such a stick in the mud about everything.” And Damian watches as, true to form, Marinette’s eyes blaze with that same icy quality she’d had in that video as Ladybug; and she smiles at Jason.

“He’s no such thing. Damian has done nothing but prove to be a thoughtful, rational, and compassionate individual all day; and while I’m sure you’re used to how he acts with you, he has been nothing but courteous with me since we met.” Marinette shrugged, offering Jason a genuine smile, “So please back off. I don’t appreciate people saying negative things about people I cherish.”

Damian’s cheeks burn, and he turns his face away, but he’s not fast enough; Jason definitely saw, and even if he didn’t, Dick absolutely did. But Jason’s expression is going soft, and Marinette looks confused. She manages to duck the first hand that goes for her hair, but she doesn’t miss the second; and then Jason is ruffling her hair. Again.

“Good job, kid, you passed the test. Welcome to the family. I’ll have your brochure tomorrow.” Marinette huffs as she pouts, glaring at Jason as the man laughs.

“Miss Nette!”

And then Marinette finds herself with an armful of toddler as Mar’i comes bounding into the room, throwing herself towards the older girl. Marinette grins as Mar’i wraps her arms around her neck, surprised the girl could jump so high.

“You’re here, miss Nette! I thought my mommy was being silly again!” Marinette laughed, hugging the girl closer.

“I’m glad to see you, Mar’i. Have you been a good girl?” Mar’i pulled back, giving Marinette a broad smile, and nodded.

“Yep! The bestest!”

“She is always the ‘bestest’, though.” Marinette looked up from the little girl in her arms in time to see…

Wow, she was beautiful.

The new arrival was a taller woman with long fiery red hair, and tan skin; her eyes were the same green as Mar’i’s, and Marinette quickly realized it was the girl’s mother. Marinette returned the woman’s smile.

“It’s nice to meet you, ma’am.”

Marinette made very sure to not think of how much this woman resembled the hero Starfire; that was not something she needed to deal with right now. It was a problem for future Marinette, she decided.

The woman’s responding smile was bright, and she lit up when she saw Marinette.

“Oh, you must be Marinette! I’m Kor’i! It is so nice to finally meet you!” Kor’i stepped over, taking Mar’i as the girl reached for her mother; Kor’i pulled Marinette into a hug, and the dark haired girl hesitantly returned it.

“Thank you for protecting Mar’i. I cannot ever repay you.” Kor’i pulled back, smiling at Marinette as she brushed some hair out of the girl’s face, “You are just adorable, look at you!”

Marinette’s cheeks flush, but she smiles, “Thank you, miss Kor’i.” The woman waves her hand, her grin wide.

“Please, you are family now, call me Kor’i.” Marinette nods, and lets herself be led away from the front door by the excitable woman. Damian watches her go, scowling only just slightly; Jason leans his elbow on Damian’s shoulder, and chuckles.

“Looks like you lost your date, demon spawn. Sucks for you.” Damian shrugs Jason off of him, glaring at his older brother before he follows after Marinette and Kor’i; Dick’s wife has led her to the living room, and they’re sitting together on the couch, discussing clothes now.

“I love your blouse, dear, where did you get that?” Marinette smiled, fiddling with the lace at the sleeves.

“I made it actually, about a year ago. I design and make most of my clothes nowadays.”

And Tim, who is sitting in the armchair nearby, freezes.

“Holy shit, you’re MDC aren’t you?” Marinette’s cheeks turn red once again, but she nods, smiling a bit.

“That’s my label, yes. I had to rebrand a couple years ago due to some slander, but MDC is still going strong thanks to my customers.” Tim is staring at her in slight awe.

“I loved the jacket you made for Jagged Stone’s ‘Round the World tour. It was awesome.” Marinette laughed, nodding.

“It was a fun one to make, for sure. Uncle Jagged really likes his leather jackets.” Tim stared at her in shock.

“He lets you call him Uncle Jagged?” Marinette snorted, a grin on her face.

“Let me? He practically demanded it, years ago! If it hadn’t been for my parents, Penny told me was going to try and adopt me.” She laughed, “He’s silly like that though.” Tim grinned.

“Well, it’s an honor to have such talent in the manor.” Damian scowled at his brother as he listened to Marinette laugh. Before he could say anything, someone cleared their throat; Damian turned to see his father standing there, a small smile on his face.

“Alfred said dinner is ready.”

Damian grinned.

Finally!

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Chloe sighed as she plopped down on her bed, toweling her hair dry. She cast the towel aside, tossing it on the floor carelessly, and groaned.

“Pollen, do you think she’ll be ok?” Her kwami flittered over, and smiled.

“Of course, My Queen! Marinette is the next Guardian after all! There’s nothing she can’t handle, especially with you by her side!” Chloe huffed and snatched her mani-pedi bag from her luggage.

“I know, but I’m not by her side right now. What if something happens, and I’m…” She paused, her hand stilling on the pretty pink nail polish Marinette had given her. Chloe spoke softer, “What if I can’t help her Pollen?” Pollen frowned, flying down and nuzzling against her chosen’s neck.

“Oh, My Queen… Please don’t fret so much. The Ladybug is safe with her Black Cat tonight, so you can relax some.”

Chloe froze.

“Pollen, what do you mean? Adrien doesn’t have his ring anymore.” Pollen pulled away from Chloe and hovered by her shoulder, and the kwami shook her head.

“No, My Queen. The Wayne boy. He’s her Black Cat. All the kwami’s felt it when Plagg activated earlier.” Chloe frowned, humming to herself. That was... new.

“I need to think Pollen, one moment please.” Pollen smiled and nodded, fluttering down to help herself to some cookies and sugar cubes.

Chloe sat the bottle of polish on her bedside table, and removed the brush, beginning to paint her toenails.

So. Damian Wayne was the true Black Cat, huh? She supposed that would make some sense; Chloe knew about the connection between Ladybugs and their Black Cats. It would explain why Marinette and Damian had been glued at the hip all day. Chloe blew some air on her nail, moving on to the next. And if that was the case, Chloe hoped she wouldn’t have anything to worry about.

She wasn’t that much of an optimist though.

Damian Wayne was known to the world as an Ice Prince; the young man felt nothing as far as the media had been concerned for the last two years. Bruce Wayne had kept his youngest out of the media until the boy had been 16 or so, letting Damian make the decision to introduce himself to the world. Chloe remembered when that had happened, because her father had been over the moon, trying to secure a partnership with Wayne Enterprise’s French branch; he’d thought it a great idea to try and invite the man to stay in Paris. It hadn’t happened, of course, since the French Government wasn’t allowing such high end clientele into Paris due to Hawkmoth’s presence; especially not someone as prolific as Bruce Wayne.

Chloe moved on, switching to her fingernails as she finished her toes. She thought about how happy Marinette looked, hand linked with Damian’s as they walked; thought about how her eyes sparkled in ways Chloe hadn’t seen in years. She sighed.

If Damian was going to be a more permanent fixture (and Chloe was sure he would be), she’d need to start making plans. She smiled.

Plans for Hawkmoth; for Lila. Maybe even Alya, if she was feeling vindictive enough; she couldn’t let Mari-bear know about that one though…

Chloe capped the nail polish as she finished, blowing on her pretty pink nails.

Maybe she’d even start on wedding plans.

Pollen looked back at her Chosen as Chloe burst into excited giggles; and she smiled.

She loved when her Queen was happy.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Marinette found that dinner at the Wayne manor was a much more boisterous affair than she ever could have dreamed. She was sat between Damian and his father, who was at the head of the table; Damian’s brother’s were scattered around both sides, making for a fun time. Dick sat next to Kor’i, and had Mar’i on his lap, alternating between feeding the girl, talking to Kor’i, and shouting things at Jason across the table. A girl named Cass sat next to Damian on his other side, and Marinette was disappointed that she hadn’t gotten to talk to her more; something about her was familiar in a way. Next to Cass was Jason, who was gesturing wildly with his fork at Dick across the table. Marinette caught Alfred’s eyes, who was seated across from her, on Bruce’s other side. The older man offered her a sheepish kind of smile, and a nod, as if to say ‘what can you do?’, and Marinette giggled. Down the table on Dick’s other side, Tim simply sighed and got himself another slice of Coffee cake.

Marinette leaned over to Damian, watching the brother’s bicker in playful tones.

“Your family is so lively.” Damian snorted, leaning his shoulder against hers as they spoke.

“I think you mean deranged, angel.” She giggled, ducking her face against his shoulder, and Damian softened as he listened to her; Cass’ elbow dug into his other side, and he hissed, looking over at her. Cass merely smirked and nodded towards their father. Damian turned to see Bruce looking at him in amusement, and a disgustingly gentle look on his face.

“Will you be spending time together tomorrow as well, Damian?” Marinette jumped, and straightened in her seat, her cheeks a bright red as she looked at Damian. He nodded.

“I was planning on it, yes. I’m going to pick her up for the tour of the gardens; I would not put it past them to leave her behind again.” Bruce nodded, turning his attention to Marinette.

“That is concerning. Was this the first time they’ve left you behind, Marinette?” She hesitated, noticing how it seemed everyone was listening despite still talking to each other.

“Well, they did leave me behind in Paris; I had to race to make the flight, even though Chloe told them they’d left me. I didn’t really think they’d do it in Gotham.” She sighed, “We had very lengthy talks on safety, and how dangerous Gotham can be before we came, and I really thought everyone had paid attention.” Marinette shrugged, “I think I was wrong though.” She grinned, “But if they hadn’t left me behind, I might not have met Damian or any of you for that matter; so I think it was an ok trade.” Bruce smiled, though it was a bit strained.

“I can see your point; though as your class sponsor, I’m concerned for your safety. Gotham is not a place to be taken lightly, and your teacher doesn’t seem to understand that.” Marinette winced, but nodded.

“I wish I could say you were wrong, but you’re not. Mme. Bustier has had a hard time keeping the class together for a few years now.” Nodding, Bruce slid her a piece of paper.

“In the event you find yourself alone on these streets again, please call one of these numbers; and I mean it.” Marinette’s eyes grew a bit wide at how serious he was, “Even if you’re out with your friends, the second things start to feel wrong, call one of these.” Finally, Marinette nodded, a small sincere smile on her face; she took the paper and tucked it into her purse.

“Thank you, sir.” The man waved her off good naturedly.

“Please, I told you it’s Bruce. After all, you’re family now.” Damian flushed, glaring at his father, who merely grinned at him. He cleared his throat.

“Father, Marinette wanted to see the garden, could I show her please?” Bruce checked his watch, and nodded.

“Absolutely. Have fun you two.” Jason cackled.

“Not too much fun though.”

Marinette flushed red all the way to her ears as Damian quickly led them away, and through the kitchen; they came out a side door, and Marinette giggled as Damian sighed.

“Sorry about Jason. He’s… weird.”

Marinette shrugged, a teasing smile on her face, “Are you embarrassed, Damian?” He coughed, shaking his head, clearing his throat before answering her.

“Absolutely not.” Marinette giggled again, and he sighed, holding his hand out.

“Shall we?” Her smile was bright, and she nodded, taking his hand.

“Yes, please. What kinds of flowers are there?” He smiled as he listed them, watching her face light up at the mention of the orchids and the apple blossoms. The soft glow of the lights along the path lit their way as Damian guided her through the flowers and ferns. He explained who cared for what, the favorites, and Marinette paused at the roses.

“These are father’s. They were grandmother’s favorite flower, and he grows them for her.” Marinette nodded, admiring the gorgeous shade of red on the petals.

“They’re absolutely beautiful.” Damian smiled, nodding.

“It’s one of the more normal flowers he grows, that’s for sure.” Marinette looked at him questioningly as they moved on, but Damian just chuckled and shook his head; another time, then.

They fell into companionable silence as they walked, hands linked, through the garden, stopping every once in awhile to admire the flowers, or for Marinette to sketch out a quick idea; and Damian belatedly noticed how his hand always sought hers once they continued. He flushed, noticing that Marinette seemed to have no problem with it. She gasped, and Damian was pulled from his idle musing in time to see her dash up to the apple blossom tree.

It was off in its own part of the garden, an elegant centerpiece to a small seating area with minimal lighting. It was a lovely little relaxation spot that Damian often found himself escaping to; provided one of his brothers hadn’t beat him to it, at least.

Marinette circled the tree with an awed smile, wonder in her eyes as she finally took out her sketchbook, and lost herself. Damian smiled as he wandered over slowly; he’d gotten to see her sketch often over the course of the day, but she always looked so concentrated, mumbling to herself as she considered aspects of her design. He stopped next to her, watching her face as she drew; he’d noticed she tended to bite her lip, or stick her tongue out when she was working on something particularly stunning, and the tell was there now. Whatever she was drawing was going to be beautiful.

Damian waited next to her while she finished with the basic sketch, and Marinette turned to him with a smile.

“Thank you for showing me the garden, petit oiseau; it’s gorgeous.” He nodded, a small smile on his face.

“I’m glad you like it, angel.” Watching her cheeks darken, Damian’s smile grew just a bit, his face flushed as well. At least he wasn’t flustered by himself.

“I-” Marinette sighed, cheeks puffing out as she huffed, “I want to say that today has been one of the best days I’ve had in…” Damian watched as she gestured with her hands, but she was smiling, “Gods, I don’t know how long. And, um-” Her hands came together, as she wrung them, her cheeks growing darker, “I really enjoyed hanging out with you, Damian. I meant it when I told Adrien you were a good friend, and you’ve done nothing but show me it’s true.” Damian flushed, but before Marinette could continue, he gripped her hand a bit, getting her attention.

“I’m glad to hear it, Marinette. I won’t lie, I can’t remember the last time I had a day like today myself.” He offered her a smile, “And it’s nice to have made a friend like you. You’re quite the remarkable person yourself; but I also can’t lie to you.” She looked at him, and raised a brow, confusion in her eyes, and Damian blushed. “While I do consider you to be a friend, I… am surprised to find how fast these feelings of affection have come around.” Damian met her eyes as she gasped, cheeks flushed, “I find myself reaching for your hand, and wanting to know as much about you as you’re willing to tell me. And rationally, I know that is much too fast given how little time we’ve known each other.” Marinette was staring at him, “And if anything I say makes you uncomfortable, please tell me. The point I’m trying to make here is that I may hold some romantic intentions towards you.”

Marinette smiled, and she began laughing, a note of relief to it; for a moment, Damian regretted saying anything, but then she squeezed his hand.

“I’m glad I’m not the only one.” Her smile grew as Damian’s eyes widened, “I was really worried about how fast it felt; I really like you, Damian. It was kind of like whiplash, actually.” Marinette laughed again, “I’m excited to get to know you more; and maybe then we can see where this goes after some time?” She flushed, but there was a smile on her face; and Damian realized.

‘Holy shit, she likes me too.’

He nodded, bringing their hands up to his mouth, and brushed his lips over her knuckles. Marinette squeaked, and Damian grinned at her, a bit cheeky.

“That sounds lovely, angel.”

His heart skipped a beat as her smile turned sly, and Marinette brought their hands up to her face as well, dusting her lips over his fingers before lowering their hands. Damian’s face darkened, and he looked away with a click of his tongue; Marinette just smiled at him.

“You’re really cute, you know.” She laughed as he made a dying sound in the back of his throat, giving her a pleading look.

“Am I going to have to endure this now?” Marinette snorted, rolling her eyes, and giving him a grin.

“What, you mean me calling you cute?” Damian nodded, raising his chin in mock indignation as Marinette stepped closer to him.

“How else will I maintain my dignity?” She leaned her forehead against his chest as she laughed, delighted chortles echoing around the tree; Damian gave her a flat look.

“And now you laugh at me? So treacherous, angel.” He grinned when he noticed her shoulders shaking with the force of her laughter, and hesitantly, he settled his hands on her waist. When she finally calmed down, she wiped the tears from her eyes, and grinned at him.

“You are not allowed to be this funny. It’s a crime, I hear.” Damian simply shrugged, offering her a small smirk.

“Not many people find me funny, actually. You’re a bit of an outlier, Marinette.” Her grip tightened ever so slightly, and he noticed her smile softened a bit.

“You can call me Mari if you want to. All my friends do.” Damian nodded, but before he could say anything, his alarm went off; they both jumped, realizing their proximity, and Marinette flushed, stepping back.

“S-sorry, I didn’t realize I’d drifted so far…” Damian shook his head as he retrieved his phone from his pocket.

“I’m sorry as well, that was impolite of me.” He swiped the alarm off, looking at the time.

9:30.

Damn.

He sighed, putting his phone away, and looking back at Marinette.

“Time to get you home, angel. I’d rather not risk Chloe’s wrath if I can help it.” Marinette snorted, but she smiled as they started heading back to the house.

“That’s fair. She’s been pretty protective of our little group for awhile now.” Her smile turned wistful, “I’m glad she’s my friend. She really did her best to become a better person, and she still stayed true to herself. I really admire her drive.” Damian chuckled as they entered the manor through a different side door, slipping down the hallways until they reached the garage. He found her jacket, and handed it to her.

“She’d be thrilled to hear you say that you know.” Marinette giggled as she slipped the hoodie on, zipping it up a bit.

“She was, the first time.” She frowned as Damian went and grabbed the keys to his car, “Shouldn’t I say goodbye to your family, Damian?” He shook his head, giving her a sly grin.

“Not really. It’s fine, I’ll just tell them I kidnapped you.” He shrugged, “It’s kind of true, if you think about it.” Marinette snorted, and then she was laughing again; but she shook her head, and climbed into the passenger side seat as he opened the door.

“I don’t think this counts as kidnapping you know.” He rolled his eyes as he shut the door, grinning a bit as he walked around to the driver side, getting in.

“Maybe. I bet you’d be an unruly hostage, huh?”

‘What are you saying?!! ABORT!!!!

Marinette chuckled, giving him a teasing grin.

“You have no idea. Once when I was 13, I had to go on a date with an akumatized classmate.” Damian looked at her, mildly panicked as he started the car and pulled out of the garage. “I worked with Chat Noir to get the object and fix everything. Can confirm-” She grinned, “I am definitely an unruly hostage.” Damian snorted, paying attention to roads as they left the manor grounds, heading for Gotham proper.

“While reassuring, I can’t help but be concerned about the fact that you had to go on a date with an akuma.” She shrugged, obviously not bothered by it anymore; Damian felt no such comfort in that knowledge. “And what about this Chat Noir person? You’ve mentioned him a few times, but when you listed the heroes earlier, you left him out.” She nodded, settling back into the cushy seat.

“That’s right. Chat Noir hasn’t been seen in three months; there’s rumors he lost his miraculous, but no one really knows for sure.” Marinette sighed, turning her eyes to the window, and watching as the woods gave away to the city. “I’m glad he’s gone, now.” Damian frowned.

“Why’s that?” Marinette shook her head.

“I used to adore him, you know. Chat Noir was always my favorite of the two; he was always so quick to help others. I really admired that; and then every once in awhile, he’d drop by my balcony to talk. It started after I helped him with that akuma.” She sighed, “It was so fun, talking to him, being his friend; but over time he changed. He got pushier, started not liking ‘no’ as an answer. I thought for the longest time he’d get better, I knew he would; but he didn’t. He only got worse.” Her voice was quiet by the end, “He kept telling me to get back with Adrien, that we were destined for each other like he and Ladybug were.” Marinette scoffed, but Damian couldn’t understand the reason. “And he’d nearly throw a fit when I would once again try to explain why I wouldn’t. It was like he didn’t want to hear any of it. But now I don’t have to worry about any of that. ” She smiled, shrugging a shoulder.

“Now that Hornet is around, Ladybug has plenty of backup, and no pushy boy whining at her. And I don’t have to deal with him dropping by to complain about her to me.” Damian barely hid a wince as he changed lanes; complaining about Ladybug to Ladybug? That was dumb. He wondered if she knew the cat’s identity, but realized she wouldn’t tell him even if she did.

“I still can’t believe the Justice League hasn’t heard about this.” Marinette winced, her smile falling a bit. A hum settled over her mind as she remembered contacting the League; and how it went each time. It hadn't been pretty.

“The French government has done a good job of keeping it out of the international news; that’s part of why the Justice League didn’t believe us.” She sighed, her head falling back against the seat. “Green Lantern told us to stop pulling pranks. Thought Ladybug was lying. I don’t know if anyone else tried sending anything, though. But I think it’s a good thing they didn’t get involved now.” Damian frowned, surprised.

“Why?”

“Think about it, Damian. A superpowered League member shows up in Paris, and gets mad over the smallest thing. Regular akumas already do a lot of damage; imagine if someone like Wonder Woman got akumatized. Or god forbid, Superman?” Marinette shuddered, “That would be one hell of a fight.” She shrugged, her eyes falling to her hands where she twirled her fingers, “So I guess it’s better that they wrote Paris off as a joke, in the long run.” Damian glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, but she was turned away, looking out the window. He hummed, nodding his head.

“That’s an understandable concern. Many members of the League are not trained to control their emotions to the degree of which you’ve described.” He noticed Marinette looking at him with an amused expression, and he frowned, “What is it?” She shook her head, grinning a bit.

“Nothing, it’s just sometimes you talk like an old man.” She giggled when he frowned at her in exasperation, “Don’t be mad, it’s cute!” He arched a brow, glancing at her quickly.

“I’m not mad. It’s just a side effect of being raised around my grandfather when I was young.” Damian shrugged, not wanting to delve too deep into the subject; murderous, assassin grandfathers could be the topic of discussion another time. “He was very strict with my upbringing; my brothers have been able to ‘modernize’ me over the years, as they say, but I still slip into my old way of speaking sometimes.” He pulled the car to a stop at a red light, and turned to look at her, surprised to see her smiling softly at him.

“Well, I think it’s very polite of you, petit oiseau.” He snorted, giving her a grin.

“Despite how I speak about my siblings, you still think I’m polite?” She laughed, nodding.

“Siblings are another matter entirely, I’m sure.” He chuckled, agreeing.

All too soon, Damian found they had reached her hotel, and he pulled the car up and parked.

“Here, let me get your door, angel.” Marinette huffed, but offered him a smile anyway, watching him get out of the car and walk around. She blushed when he opened the door, and held his hand out to her. Taking it, Marinette let him help her to her feet, and they walked towards the building after shutting the door to the car. Marinette bit her lip as she paused outside of the building, and she turned to Damian; she was almost surprised to see him as red in the face as her. Given what they’d discussed in the garden though, maybe she should expect it more.

An interesting thought that brings a smile to her face; she reaches out and grasps his hand in hers, and Damian turns to look at her.

“Thank you for a wonderful evening, Damian. I’ll see you in the morning?” His smile was small, barely noticeable to any simple passerby.

“Of course, habibti. I’ll be here at 10 AM, when your class is scheduled to leave; Father will inform your teacher of the change.” He stared at her, tightening the grip on her hand softly, “I… am looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.” Marinette flushed, but a bright smile spread across her face.

“I’m excited for it too. I-” Her eyes fell to her feet, and she shuffled a bit, “I think I may also have… ‘romantic intentions’ for you too,” She snorted a bit at the term, grinning despite her red cheeks, “But I still say it’s better for us to be friends longer first.” Damian nodded, his smile soft.

“Then we’re in agreement, angel.” He watched relief flood her face, and she breathed deeply; Damian watched the anxiety melt out of her eyes, and he wanted to frown. She’d been more nervous about saying that than she had any right to be; his mind again wandered to her relationship with Adrien, wondering what had happened there.

“Good, that’s-that’s good…” She blushed more, glancing back at the hotel, “I-I should head upstairs, and settle in, um… One-one more thing though…” Damian nodded, patiently waiting for her to finish. He watched her smile turn a bit shy. “C-could we be friends that… hold hands? And maybe, eventually….. K-kiss?”

Valiantly ignoring the part of him that crowed in victory, Damian smiled. His hand held hers as he nodded, leaning down and kissing her forehead. Marinette stared up at him, cheeks red, and her eyes wide.

“I’m ok with that.” Marinette nodded, and started to turn away to her building, only to pause. With a huff, she turned back to him, and Damian froze as she raised up on her toes, and pressed a delicate kiss to his cheek. Quickly, she pulled back, noting his red face.

“G-goodnight, Damian!”

He raised a hand to his cheek as she raced inside, not letting him get a word out. He watched her dumbly through the doors for a moment, until she disappeared into the elevator. Finally he shook himself out of his stupor, and frowned at his behavior. He couldn’t deny the happy feeling fluttering in his stomach, but he really needed to adapt better to it.

Knowing that did not help him wipe the dopey smile from his face as he drove home, however.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Chloe was waiting for her when she entered their room; the blonde took one look at the elated look on Marinette’s face, and smiled a smug little grin.

“So, I’m guessing it went well, then.”

All Marinette could do was bury her face in her hands, and squeak; Chloe laughed, and Marinette looked at her in betrayal.

“Don’t laugh! He told me he liked me!” Marinette gasped, and then groaned, “Oh god, and I told him I liked him too, Chlo!” Chloe was howling, hand braced on the couch to keep herself standing as she laughed. Marinette huffed at her best friend.

“I’m going to go change, you can come find me when you’re done laughing.” Chloe tried to say something, but just lost herself in more giggles; Marinette rolled her eyes playfully, shaking her head at her antics. Shutting the door to her room, Marinette sighed, and sat her purse down before unzipping it to release Tikki and Kaalki; she still needed to talk to them about what had happened at Wayne Enterprises earlier in the day.

She was not expecting a third kwami to zip out, cheshire grin on his little face.

“Hey, bug, it’s been a while. Got any cheese?”

Marinette wanted to scream.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It took some time but once Marinette had calmed down, Plagg had explained why he had activated earlier that afternoon.

“You’ve been hanging around my natural holder all day, bug; of course my box kicked me out.” Marinette sighed, running her hand through her hair, having taken the braid out a while ago. She sat on her bed, having changed into her casual clothes, consisting of some fuzzy sleep pants, and a long sleeve Jagged Stone t shirt; she chewed idly on her lip as she considered the information in front of her.

Damian Wayne was her Black Cat.

It sounded like a bad joke, but Plagg simply shrugged.

“You’re one of Tikki’s creation souls; he’s one my destruction souls. It’s not all that surprising, you know.”

Marinette begged to differ.

She distractedly gathered her things for a bath, glancing at Chloe’s bedroom door as she entered the bathroom; she needed time to think. Marinette sat her clean clothes on the counter top before starting the bath; idly, she added some oils and bubble bath to the water, lost in her thoughts as she watched it fill up.

Damian liked her; like she liked him.

And they both agreed that it was too fast; that they needed more time together before making any kind of decision.

And he was her Black Cat.

Marinette’s face erupted with red, and she squealed, covering her face in embarrassment. It was too good to be true; dare she believe her luck? She turned the water off, stripping her clothes before climbing in. Marinette shivered at the hot water before sighing, sinking into the relaxing heat; Gotham was so cold, but she could probably get used to it after some time...

She groaned, her face turning red once more. She should not be thinking about getting used to the weather; shouldn’t be thinking about gorgeous, considerate dark haired boys who also are apparently her other half! Marinette dunked her head under the water, blowing air out of her mouth and making more bubbles; she soaped up her loofah and washed, losing herself to her thoughts again.

It was weird, after Adrien. When she was dating him, she’d felt like she should do what he wanted because she loved him, and she should always consider what her partner said; and she often chose his path even when it didn’t sit well with her. Whether or not Adrien had ever intended for that, Marinette couldn’t say, but it ended up being a huge strain on their relationship; and Adrien never seemed to understand what she meant when she explained it.

But Damian listened, and if he didn’t understand, then he didn’t act; he didn’t try and push his view on her. He wanted her to be completely comfortable, not pushing her into tough situations; and Marinette appreciated that. He was more considerate than people believed; at least he had been with her. She thought again about what Tim had said at lunch as she shampooed her hair.

Damian genuinely liked her; her, not Ladybug.

Marinette had never realized what that could feel like until then.

Her heart beat thunderously in her chest, and she smiled, feeling herself get a little dopey; it was nice, this pleasant, giddy feeling in her chest. She could hardly believe it. It felt like flying, like nothing in the world could possibly bring her down from this.

Marinette smiled as she rinsed the shampoo, and applied her conditioner. She was really looking forward to spending more time with him tomorrow; Damian was one of the most fascinating people she had ever met. She hadn’t managed to learn much today; he was really quite good at getting her to keep talking. She was determined to learn more, though. He wasn’t anything like what she’d expected, and Marinette scolded herself for ever believing some of the articles she’d read. Sure, Damian was obviously a bit more closed off than most people of his status, but that was his choice, and his business; it also wasn’t nearly as awful as some of those journalists made it out to be.

What kind of other hobbies did he have? What was his favorite color? What kind of thoughts did he have? She rinsed the conditioner, her eyes closed tight as she dunked her head. Was this why he kept her talking all day? Did he also have an unusual urge to get to know her?

Marinette groaned.

She was never going to sleep like this…

With a stroke of inspiration, she jolted up, splashing the water around a bit.

Her dress; she could work on that.

Marinette grinned, setting the tub to drain, before climbing out and drying off. That apple blossom tree Damian had shown her in the garden had been just the inspiration she needed. She blushed as she got dressed; maybe she should make him something to thank him? She’d need more fabric if that was the case… She hummed, pulling the t shirt and cotton pants on.

She’d look for a boutique tomorrow.

Maybe Damian would even let her get him measurements.

For one of the first times in ages, Marinette had lovely dreams that night.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

2tIRED2FUNction @swishybishyboi

yo i think i just saw damian fucking wayne smile

at some girl???? nani the fuck was in my coffee?? 

#needsleep #helpme #butseriously #nANI