“If you don’t wanna be my friend ― fine.” Lila smiles, tilting her head. “But I’ll make sure that you won’t have any friends when I’m done with you, Marinette. By the end of this semester, you’ll have lost everyone in class that was ever on your side.”
Marinette’s eyes widen, and Lila smirks ― but then Marinette scoffs and raises an eyebrow. “Go ahead,” she says, shrugging. “But I have to warn you, I won’t be the only one losing someone.” She smiles back at Lila, crossing her arms. “I might lose everyone in that classroom, but they’ll lose me, too.” She smiles again and brushes past Lila out of the bathroom. She pauses at the door. “Not to toot my own horn,” she says casually, “but if I’m being honest, I think I’m a bit more important than anyone else in that class. I mean, they need my help for so much.” Marinette smiles over her shoulder one more time. The door closes behind her, and Lila is left with clenched fists.
Lila gives Alya a smile, trying to make it look more grateful than malicious. She must succeed, because the smile Alya gives her in return is a reassuring sort of smile.
Honestly, Lila can’t wait for that girl to walk through the door and see her work in tatters. She bets Marinette’s reaction will be priceless ― tearing up her sketchbook and arranging the scraps in a hostile, talent-shaming message on her desk? Brilliant. Lila will have to remember that if she ever encounters any other artsy types in her future.
There was some resistance to the idea, yes, with the more pacifistic students wondering if going this far was really necessary. All Lila had to do was “cry” harder, tell them that Marinette had threatened to cut her hair with blunt scissors, and all those concerns faded away. Besides, it had helped that it was Alya who presented the idea like she was the one who came up with it, not Lila. Everyone knew how vindictive Alya could be. Although, a quick glance around the classroom reveals that Rose, Juleka, Nathanael, and Max still look uncertain about this. Chloe and Sabrina look indifferent, ignoring the rest of the class like they usually do. The only ones who look excited ― or at anticipating what’s about to happen ― are herself, Alya, Alix, and Kim. Lila frowns to herself; she would have liked a few more people clearly on her side, but she supposes this will have to do.
The door opens, and Marinette walks in, looking incredibly tired. Lila coos in mock sympathy. “Stay up too late, Marinette?”
Marinette blinks at her, but doesn’t answer ― she just walks past them up the steps to her desk. When she passes Alix and Kim, they can barely suppress their giggles, but Marinette doesn’t seem to notice. She stops in front of her desk, and Lila exchanges another smile with Alya, waiting for the breakdown.
Except ― it never happens. Lila watches with mounting confusion and irritation as Marinette only stares, sighs, pulls out her phone to take a picture of the carnage, send off a few texts, swipe the paper into her bag, and sit down. This time, the look between Alya and Lila is far more confused than anticipating.
“Aren’t you upset?” Kim eventually demands, turning around and standing. Marinette looks at him, startled out of whatever daydream she’d been sliding into. “That was months of work!”
“Ah,” Marinette says, and shrugs. “Yeah, months of work for the class.” There’s a long moment of silence as that sets in. Marinette leans back in her chair. “See, I have a whole trunk of notebooks and sketchbooks, Kim. This was just one of them, and it was the only one I bring for school-related projects. I mean, I have bits and pieces of school designs in other books, duh, but―” she shrugs again “―essentially, everyone who either helped tear this up or did nothing to stop it just shot themselves in the foot.” She pats the space where the torn paper was, then leans forward, holds a hand up, and starts ticking off fingers. “All of that, in total? That was the theme for the school dance, the outfits for Mylene and the drama club and their upcoming performance of Hamlet, the new designs for Kitty Section, the layout art for the Ladyblog, the set piece for Nino’s gig this Saturday for the school fundraiser, the banners for the swim team, track team, and sports teams, the design and layout for Max’s gaming channel, the notes about fashion references for Nathanael and Marc’s comic book, and, oh yeah! The dresses and suits for everyone to wear to Lila’s party.” She gives everyone a smile that’s far from sincere. “And guess what? You were getting all that for free!” She leans back again and holds her hands near her head palms up, as if saying Oops, what can you do? She blinks, then pats her hands together. “Oh, and I forgot ― I had a whole bunch of notes in there for our upcoming field trips! But since I didn’t write any of that information anywhere else, I guess we’ll have to cancel all that. What a shame.” She shakes her head.
Lila . . . Lila didn’t even realize how much the class depends on Marinette for ― for everything. Herself included.
“I mean, they need my help for so much.”
There’s another moment of silence, filled with mounting horror as the severity of their act sinks in. Everyone knows that the field trips, which had been begged and begged and begged for, were a list of places and activities that hit nearly everything the whole class loved to do or see. There was a museum that had the history of electronic devices, aquatic sports, and journalism all in one place. There was an amusement park that was related to sound. There was a stop at the freaking Justice League Headquarters ― and now that’s all gone into thin air. Then the class erupts into chaos.
Everyone is still trying to get Marinette to forgive them and please, please redo the designs, we’ll pay you this time we swear, you can’t cancel the trip, Marinette, please, when Madame Bustier walks in. “My goodness!” She says, looking at everyone with a surprised expression. “Is everyone alright?”
The class, now silent, doesn’t answer. Kim slowly sinks back into his seat, looking like he’s just soundly lost a race. Everyone else who stood follows suit. Lila looks down, wondering just how badly she could have fucked up. Why hadn’t she been more thorough when she looked up information on Marinette? Why hadn’t Marinette reacted the way Lila expected her to? As she grinds her teeth, answering “Present” in as subdued a voice as everyone else, she’s infuriated to realize that she doesn’t know the answer to either of those questions.
She turns at the sound of her name being called, her hands in her pockets. Coming up to her is pretty much everyone from her class ― no, that is everyone from her class. They’ve all got varying degrees of ashamed and plaintive expressions on their faces. “Can I help you?” Marinette asks. After that Akuma last night (and one the morning before last, and one the evening before that, and . . . wow, she needs to fucking sleep), she has absolutely no patience for all their nonsense. Alya, especially, who’s standing in the forefront with Lila.
“Marinette,” Alya says, “you didn’t really mean all that, did you?”
Alya shifts her weight from foot to foot, and glances at Lila, who steps forward and takes the reigns. “All those things you said in the classroom,” she says in a tremulous voice, her eyes shining like she’s about to burst into tears. “About the field trip being canceled, and not being able to do any of the other designs ― y-you didn’t mean that, right?” She clasps her hands together. “If we pay you, you can do all that, right?”
Marinette raises an eyebrow. Wow. A blond head moving across the courtyard catches her attention, and she glances over. “Adrien!” she calls, and he turns around, an inquisitive look on his face. “Come over here for a second?”
Obligingly, he trots over, tugging Kagami along and smiling at something she says. “Hey, Marinette,” he says cheerfully. “What’s up?”
“Hey,” Marinette says. She nods to Kagami. “Hi, Kagami.”
“Hello,” Kagami says, eyeing Marinette’s classmates.
“I was wondering something, Adrien,” Marinette says, cutting Lila off before she can be rude to Kagami. “Do you remember how cheap your dad’s designs have ever been? I’m talking like the absolute lowest prices he’s ever had.”
Adrien frowns thoughtfully, looking up. “Mmm . . . I’d say somewhere in the upper hundreds to thousands of dollars?”
“Cool,” Marinette says with a nod. “And do you remember how much your dad said I could sell my own designs for?” There’s a collective gasp from her classmates.
Adrien glances at them, and an understanding gleam shines in his eyes. “Oh, easily in the ten-thousand dollar range,” he says, and they gasp again. Lila is starting to look pale. “Probably higher, depending on who you’d want to sell to.”
“Thank you!” Marinette chirps.
He smiles at her, winking for good measure, then waves and starts walking towards the school entrance. Kagami, who looks like she has no idea what’s happening but wants to support Marinette anyway, says “That little would be an insult, honestly.”
Marinette laughs. “Thanks, Kagami. I appreciate it.”
Kagami smiles and follows after Adrien. “Anytime, Marinette. We’ll see you later?”
“Totally,” Marinette agrees. “I’ll meet you in the park when I’m done here.” Kagami nods, and turns around completely. Silence settles again. “So,” Marinette announces, back to her dead-tired tone, and everyone startles. “There’s your answer. Unless you can pay me more than that insulting amount, then no ― I’m not at all willing to redo months of work in like two weeks.”
“But―” Alya starts. “Haven’t you done more complicated projects in less time?”
Marinette gives her a dead, unimpressed look. “Yeah, sure I have ― when they were required, or I was being paid for it. The most any of you have paid me for anything was . . .” she pauses. “Actually, I can’t think of any examples. Huh.” She cocks a hip, her arms crossed. “Why did you tear up my sketchbook, anyway? Don’t deny it,” she adds when Alya’s mouth opens. “Kim and Alix wouldn’t have giggled the way they did if they didn’t have something to do with it.” The two in question flinch and look away in shame.
“We just . . .” Alya rubs at her arm, looking to the side. “We just wanted you to know what it felt like for Lila, being bullied by you all the time.”
Marinette stares. “Wow,” she finally says, raising her hands and slow clapping. “Wow. A plus execution there, guys, congrats. I am a fully reformed person and I will never say another bad word against Madame Lila Agnes Rossi ever again. Wow. Who knew that in order to make a bad person good, all you have to do is try and make them feel like shit? Truly, you have unlocked the answer to life, death, and the universe. Please, tell me your secrets, oh great ones.” She drops her hands.
“Marinette, please take this seriously,” Alya pleads. Lila, who hasn’t said anything, starts sniffling.
“I knew that it would be mean,” she whispers, “but I didn’t think it would be this bad. I just . . . I just wanted you to know how it felt.”
Marinette pulls something out of her backpack and hurls it against the wall next to them. Alya and Lila are stunned into silence, even taking a step back. Marinette takes a deep breath as she faces them again. “I am taking this seriously,” she says quietly, glaring. “But I think I’m entitled to a little sarcasm when for ages, ages, I have tried to tell you that even if Lila isn’t lying, following her blindly and not taking your own opportunities will hurt you in the end, when you believed that I would bully her for no discernible reason despite the fact that even though Chloe tortured me for years I’ve never retaliated against her in any way, when you refuse to listen to common fucking sense, I think I get to be upset!” She’s yelling at this point, and everyone is shrinking away from her. “I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in months, part of the reason being all the stress from school and those stupid fucking Akumas around my house, and you want me to add to that stress so you can look pretty? I have yet to be paid for anything I’ve done for you, despite the fact that I’ve been promised payment for babysitting your little siblings, making baked goods, and designing and fixing outfits, and you want me to do yet more work for free that would cost thousands of dollars in a professional setting?
"I have yet to see a single dime from any of you, and yet Nathanael, despite being another artist and the one person I would expect to know the importance of being paid for your work, says nothing about it? I have done favor after favor after favor after favor for everyone here, and the most I get in return is a half-assed, afterthought thank you, while you’re running off to play with whatever new toy you’ve just gotten. So no, I’m not redoing all that work just because you suddenly realized how much I’m doing for you. I refuse to put myself through that much thankless stress again, not without a good. Fucking. Reason.” She inhales and goes to retrieve whatever she’d thrown. She wasn’t paying attention when she reached into her bag except to make sure that it wasn’t Tikki. It’s the hardcover of her ripped up sketchbook. She snorts to herself. When she turns around, the class ― and actually, a few bystanders, too ― are staring at her.
“Feeling sorry for yourselves because you don’t get to do a whole bunch of projects you were looking forward to is not a good enough reason,” she tells them, in a much calmer voice. “Apologizing to me so you can feel better about yourselves is not a good enough reason. Telling me you didn’t realize how much I do is not a good enough reason.” She catches Lila’s eye. “I did tell you, didn’t I?” Lila suddenly goes red, glaring. Marinette smiles, humorless and thin. “They’d lose me, too.” She turns and leaves.