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The Model's Apprentice

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Forgive me world for I have sinned... and started another Adrienette fic. Awesome.

Note: This story will be a big mess of fluff, accidental touching, and misunderstandings. You can also follow me on Tumblr at nyahchatnoir~

So yes. Ya'll have been warned. Enjoy!

A seven year old Marinette Dupain-Cheng unabashedly ran into the living room. She stopped before her mother and bowed uncharacteristically down to her waist.

"Please teach me how to sew!" the short girl cried out in front of her suddenly surprised mother; a determined yet embarrassed sheen pleaded in her tiny, precious little blues. Her mother's mind faltered, and she stared down at her daughter with a set of wide eyes. It was a long moment, before the kind Sabine merely shrugged and patted at the seat next to her, openly inviting her only child to hop onto the sofa beside her. Marinette fell into the cushion with a light huff, gazing brightly up at her mother. Sabine smirked.

"Now, what is this about, Marinette?" a laughing question escaped her lips, "Sewing? What an odd yet somewhat dangerous request, mon petite ladybug, which definitely makes me wonder. Why, exactly, would a seven year old need to learn how to sew, mon cher?"

The child in question could only blush through her child-like resolve, before she confidently replied, "B-Because I want to make clothes!"

"Why else would I want to sew?" a light air of grumpiness entered Marinette's voice, "I just… I want to make clothes."

Sabine merely stared, promptly deciding to at least attempt to indulge her daughter. Marinette was always becoming interested in doing something new. The Asian woman was sure that her adorable little menace would find something else to attract her attentions later. That is how it always was with her petite ladybug.

"Uh-huh," came the mother's unconvinced voice, as she dutifully nodded. She tried her hardest to keep the joking smirk off her face. Still, when she witnessed Marinette let out a tone-filled breath, the sweet woman allowed a good-natured chuckle to leave her lips at the sight of her daughter's visibly cooling cheeks. She airily continued, "Also, pray tell, why would a seven year old want to make clothes? More so, what kind of clothes would you even want to make?"

At Sabine's teasing manner, Marinette could only give her mother a single leveled-headed yet annoyed guise, before she quipped, "Nice clothes! Clothes that people would want to wear, duh. Mom, you don't understand. I want everyone to wear my clothes!"

When Marinette said this, Sabine blinked, and watched her daughter with a pair of dazed but doting orbs, as the inexplicably energetic girl rapidly began to mention all of the various ideas she had. The girl went on and on about everything she could think of; it sat easily on the edge of her tongue just waiting to be let out. Apparently a lot of thought had been put into her daughter's decision. As the ideas kept coming, the child even took the time to mention that fact that she had a few notebooks filled with a few concept drawings that she had done of clothing during school hours – a fact that bothered yet nevertheless impressed Sabine at the same time. The girl made wild gestures with her hands as she spoke. Pants, shirts, hats; you name it. The words fell off of her patois like a happy, bouncing song. Things like "I would do this and that. N-No wait, I would do that, and then this."

Marinette was speaking excitedly, lost in the world of her own imagination and it mentally floored the beautiful woman. So much so that she made a decision; however, Marinette was too distracted by her own thoughts to notice the movement of her mother leaning downward in order to grab the sewing box by her feet. She missed the pleasing sight of Sabine pulling at its handle when she heaved it into her lap, giving a moderate grunt. The raven-haired woman cheerfully unlatched the lid and beamed.

Marinette simply continued on, completely unknowing of her surroundings.

"I was thinking about doing something else; a jacket with lots and lots of sparkles. No, maybe ribbons. Yes, ribbons would be very cool on the sleeves. All intertwining and weaving through one another. I could make them a bright orange and black like Halloween or just a plain dark red like my headbands. That would be pretty cool. I could wear it to school since it's starting to get a bit colder outside. Maybe I could tear a few holes in the chest-"


The loud clearing of a throat pulled the eccentric youth from her audible monologue, and she stilled. A flush gathered once more upon her cheeks. She mumbled out an embarrassed apology.

"No need to apologize," her mother offered kindly. Then, she gave Marinette a sneaky smirk, "Especially not when you have such a smart and fully capable needlepoint sensei sitting right beside you who is about to teach you how to sew. You lucky girl, you."

"No way!" the girl absently squealed, till she wrapped her arms tightly around her mother's skinny frame. The woman in question merely laughed maneuvering a hand over Marinette's head to lightly stroke it, "You'll teach me? It actually worked?"

"You know, I'm surprised as well," her mother finally giggled, "But the sparkle in your eyes was what ultimately decided for me. Besides, you would have won me over eventually, mon cher."

Fully confused, Marinette blinked and allowed a curio packed, "How so?"

"Your puppy eyes. You know, those two big sky-bluish bug eyes of yours," Sabine giggled, and she reached inside the gigantic tub to pull out a small fake tomato stuffed with needles and a thin strip of fiber. She turned back to Marinette with a subtle wink, aptly holding both out to her. The woman smirked triumphantly, while her daughter gazed wearily down at the unpracticed utensils.

Sabine mentally guffawed. Out loud, she favorably admitted, "One look at them, and I would have been a goner anyway. Now, pick your needle and take the spool of thread."

Slowly, Marinette reached out to choose a cool, sleek black needle and accepted the red spool of thread from her mother. She sent the older woman a worried line, and Sabine stuck her hand into the craft box to grab her own pair of supplies – a spool of blue thread, a red needle, and a set of jet black scissors - before she placed the hefty box on the other side of her body. The couch bent slightly under its weight, but the heavy treasure chest stayed in its place beside her. The sight downright elicited a grin from the woman, as she twisted to gaze down at Marinette with a mixture of humor and a sudden firmness in her eyes.

"Ready to sew to get some knowledge?"

The quirk of Sabine's light lipstick was enough to make her daughter slowly ease herself out of a rapt session of anxiety, and the dark haired kid eventually nodded. She stared down at the two tools in her palms, moderately uneased, immediately feeling a wave of nervousness settle over her. Seeing her one and only daughter's visible trepidation, Sabine smiled out of a proud appreciation for the cute, awkward being she helped create. The nurturing woman placed a gentle, tender hand over her daughter's stiff shoulders, hoping she could ease Marinette's worries. Sabine felt the tension within them release, as they each relaxed upon the softness of her touch.

"You will be fine. Keep your breath steady and your Qi flowing. This will all work out in the end; practice makes perfect, you know. Don't worry, I was a novice at one point, too. That is, until your Grandma Cheng ultimately taught me when I was about fourteen. Now, I estimate it is my turn to pass the skill down the family line. You will be amazing, mon petite ladybug. We Dupain-Cheng women are quite talented, you know. I am sure that whatever you make will be simply miraculous, mon cher."

Listening to Sabine's really cheerful yet unhelpful words did not comfort the teetering child. All the shaking seven year old could do was sit there with the suddenly dangerously sharp needle in her palm, imagine said needle as it pricked her finger or became lodged in her skin, and hope that her mother's proclamations were right. They had to be.

Marinette's mother was always caring and honest. She would not lie to her daughter, right?

The road to success was immensely difficult. It was paved with trial and error, and sometimes terrible failures, but still, Marinette persisted. That being said, the girl could not remember when she first wanted to become a fashion designer. The memory had not embedded itself within her brain; however, it was the calm and gentle pushing from her mother that gave her the confidence to learn the tricks of her mother's wifely trait.

17 Years Later

Marinette queerly cleared out her throat, fully edging the brown-skinned girl's attention away from her phone. She was in the middle of typing another Tumblr post, but surely it could wait a few moments before she finally went back to it, furiously typing away about social justice or proudly shit-posting and fangirling over the Avengers. Just a normal, everyday occurrence for her. She looked up in silent question, as her friend fumbled to find her next words. She watched as said friend began to pace along the floor of her bedroom in a worried, antsy circle.

Marinette crossed her arms and let out an annoyed grunt. The woman could do this! She was in college for goodness sake. She was strong! She had climbed mountains and crossed oceans in order to get to that moment in time, and dammit, the female would not allow her fear to bully her thoughts! It would not force her to chicken out of her resolve! Yet all the poor college girl could do was groan in audible frustration, as her best friend in the entire world gazed concernedly up at her. The aforementioned friend blinked when the blue-eyed woman started to eerily mutter.

"Alya, I'm thinking about things," Marinette paused with an unsure lilt in her voice, and she moved to fall unabashedly into the pink sheets of her comforter. Throwing her lanky but slightly toned arms out above her head, the woman permitted a distressed expression to settle over her lovely face, before her lips fell into a cute diminutive pout, "Stupid things. I think… I think I'm thinking about doing something absolutely crazy."

"You crazy? As if," Her coconut-eyed best friend merely rose a sarcastic finely plucked eyebrow, before casually slinking over to sit beside her precipitously distraught friend. She turned to give Marinette a careful and compassionate but calculating stare, before she idly remarked, "Well, let it spill. Tell momma Alya everything. Whatever is troubling you, it can't be as senseless as that abomination of a dress idea you came up with all the way back in high school. The… you know, that one. The dress who shall not be named. Blech. I mean, I know that you're an exceptionally fashion-forward and very eccentric kind of designer, but that one… terrifying piece was a bit too forward for most… anyone's taste. For example, there were too many rhinestones, and then the feathers- Don't even get me started on those."

"I already know!" The pretty raven-haired lady half-screamed, half-cried, and she inelegantly burrowed herself into the blankets on her bed, aptly digging her head within the soft comforts of her favorite pink polka dotted pillow. She tiredly reached for the black cat pillow on her bed, bringing it in for a lonely hug. She hoped it would offer a sense of emotional relief, but the coziness of its indulgent stuffing did nothing to distract the poor female's upset heart. The pained organ continued to thud hollowly within her chest, as she stared pitifully up at Alya and mumbled a timid, "No need to joke about my shortcomings."

"Woah, hey," the woman spoke with a sincere plea, "I'm sorry, alright? You're obviously bothered by something and there was no reason for me to go and open my big fat idiotic mouth-"

"Wow, you finally said something right tonight," the other female finally giggled.

The auburn-haired brunette sent her best friend a sheepish smile and easily shrugged her broad shoulders, knowing that she deserved the tiny jeer. She threw a fidgeting hand up to her head in order to absently scratch at it, and agreed, "Yeah, I'm sure I'm not helping. Anyways, what did you need to get off of your chest? I'm all ears! Plus, you look like you're about to blow a gasket if you keep your mouth shut for any longer. No jokes or laughing, I completely promise. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye."

"Ouch," Her colleague could only let out a withered, disconsolate bark of a laugh, before her eyes glanced toward the pale carpet of her bedroom floor, and she jestingly rebuffed Alya by making a self-reflecting prod, "Am I even prepared to speak at the funeral already? Between college and the new internship I just got picked for, I'm not sure how I would ever be able to work something like that into my ever-busying schedule. Death by a needle; double ouch. Those things hurt a fucking lot. Also, I'm sure dying isn't fun. Wouldn't you agree?"

As Alya was listening to Marinette's never-ending, almost nervous quip, the laughing woman drew on a haughty expression. Throwing up a mocking finger with her other hand poised conveniently forever around her cellphone, the blogger chick began to move her lips along with her friend, airily making fun of her, until her mind snappishly processed the nonsense of whatever her friend had just told her. The girl's orbs widened with a new-found astonishment and transformed into a couple of incredibly vast and disbelieving saucers. She openly gaped at her on edge friend.

"Woah, what?" the female immediately yelled, instantly giggling behind her hand at the second Marinette moved to throw an urgent hand over her mouth. Narrowing her perky hazel orbs, the woman roguishly licked at it, causing the much thinner and pale-skinned female to throw her palm down in apt repulsion. She went to wipe the brunt of Alya's spit directly over the length of her jeans, as she gave her best friend an irritated but friendly stare.

Mentally on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, Marinette made an exaggerated motion with her hands. She raised a shushing finger to her lips. For a moment, the poor woman wished that she had a calmer companion. However, life would certainly be dull without her overly jubilant and affectionate bestie. She felt thankful for her; although, the gratitude was rapidly slipping away.

Alya glared, for her best friend refused to be quietened. Instead, she merely whispered out an excited, "Shut. Up!"

Marinette felt like slapping herself straightaway.

"Okay, listen!" the woman tightly commanded, as she leant in close to Alya's side, quickly tossing an arm around her friend's shoulders to bring the slightly older girl in closer, "This is pertinent!"

Marinette's voice came out in a curt whisper, as she overtly explained her sudden freak out, "So, to begin, you cannot tell anyone! Not even my parents know yet, and I kind of want it to be a big surprise for them."

Alya drew in a rapid breath and placed both of her slightly plumper hands over Marinette's thin shoulder blades. She pulled herself out of the girl's embrace in order to stare authoritatively into her ocean-blue orbs. Marinette gave an embarrassed leer. Alya gave a no-nonsense gleam.

"Spill!" Her one-worded command had Marinette sending her an elated grin, "I want to know every single damn detail and don't leave out anything! Not a single, tiny, insignificant thing. I wanna know everything! How? Why? When?!"

Alya paused in her stream of statements in order to take in a huge gulp of air, and she continued, "Tell me! Although, I am a tad upset that you never managed to ever bring this up to me before – what kind of best bud does that – but we can always get to that little, unimportant tidbit later. Oh my god girl, I am so freaking proud of you! Good on you! I knew you had it in you; your momma always knew! I mean, you're so awe-inspiring and talented!"

Alya threw the brunt of her arms around Marinette's waist, already feeling utterly enthused for her friend's achievements. She could not believe that her friend had accomplished something so big! Well, actually the darker-skinned blogger could definitely see Marinette gaining a fashion internship. The cute half-Asian woman was simply adorable and completely talented when it came to creating amazing pieces of clothing within her hands. Sure, she had her occasional flops every once in a while, but those failures were few and infinitely far between. Honestly, if anyone was deserving of such a wonderful and fantastic opportunity, it was the dark-haired female before her, and Alya was immensely proud. She could not stop the happy glint in her eyes, as she hugged her friend in closer to her chest; Marinette chortled with laughter, but she could not help but groan aloud when her face came to rest pressed heavily against her friend's substantially larger chest. It was a soft cushion which had her feeling a light bout of jealousy, before she sniggered, propelling up a hand to place some much needed distance between their chests. Sometimes it was a bit hard to breathe around her much easily thrilled and cheerful comrade.

Once the woman in question finally managed to calm down, she gave her best friend since high school a content sigh, before her lips morphed into a much warranted frown, "Now… how in the literal hell, Marinette? When did you apply?"

Marinette blushed, looking away for a quick moment, until she eventually replied, "The Summer before last."

"An entire year ago?" Alya visibly yelled the information at the flustered woman's face, as her own exploded into a look of sheer astonishment. Marinette instantly threw a hand up to her forehead. The distant faraway sounds of her parents walking downstairs suddenly lofted through the Dupain-Cheng's dense ceiling below her bedroom, but there was no noises indicating that the two besties were about to be interrupted anytime soon. Alya allowed a second sheepish smile.

"My bad... Still, Marinette, why didn't you tell me?"

The slight hurt in Alya's voice had Marinette instantly regretting her decision to never allow her friend into her own personal loop. Still, the girl could see why she initially made the choice; she abhorred the idea of letting any of her friends or family down. The designer was strong, immensely independent, and this endeavor had been absolutely important to her. Sure, the process had been long and nerve-wracking. Perhaps she would have had a better time dealing with all of the pressure if she had informed her best friend since the very beginning. It definitely would have been nice to have an accomplice to grunt all of her frustrations to. However, the woman felt immeasurably scared of the unknown possibilities of it all – she was afraid that she was not good enough, and she was worried that she did not have the chops to sustain a career in the ever-changing world that is the European fashion industry – the girl's nerves were still extremely frayed. Truthfully, the idea of bringing it up to anyone, especially if none of her many – and she went through many – difficult auditions panned out, was terrifying.

Marinette could feel her hands shaking at the thought. Alya, as perceptive as ever, wisely reached for the woman's hands and engulfed them within her own, sending her bestie an consistently warm glimmer. The latter gave a timid grin; the aftereffects of her trials hitting her all at once now that her friend knew about her secret.

Alya rubbed the back of Marinette's hand gently with her thumb, before she interjected, "I'll have you know, I'm still mad! Although… I do love you, so I think I can make an exception. That's good, right? As long as you're happy and everything works out, then I'm fine. I'm sure you'll do great. Who are you interning under?"

"That's the thing," Marinette began and slowly trailed off. Then, her face brightened into an immeasurably gleeful leer, as her teeth practically covered the entire lower half of her face. She let out a lengthy joyful squeal which eventually ended in an extremely dreamy sigh, "You will never guess who. Come on, guess!"

Alya rolled her eyes and propped a hand against her side. She rolled her eyes sarcastically and sent her friend a sassy smirk.

"What? You left me out of your scheme for an entire year, and now you want me to play a guessing game about the said secret scheme? Wow, you are so cruel to me."

Marinette stuck out her tongue and cried, "Oh hush! Just guess, Alya. Come on, you'll never guess it. I'm so confident that you won't guess it right, that I'll even give you an incentive. Just a wager. I bet you 10 bucks you won't guess it."

"Oh, wow. 10 whole dollars!" the redhead gave a sarcastic tilt to her head and leered, "Okay you're on! Plus, it's not like you got an internship for someone as amazing as, say, Gabriel Agreste. I mean, right? Because that would be so out there and hilariously amazing. I mean, his spring line is hella awesome, and let's not forget about how gorgeous his son is."

Marinette's wide-eyed stare met Alya's orbs, and the unsuspecting woman faltered. The look of fearful awe spoke volumes, and Alya felt as if the wind had been knocked out of her lungs. The beautiful blogger chick instantly backtracked and cried, "No. No freaking way. You're not serious."

Marinette merely stared, her eyes set into a pair of unseeing blue saucers, as she distractedly worked a wary hand downward to grab her wallet from a pocket within her homemade light pink bejeweled jacket. Seeing what she was doing, Alya immediately jumped onto the offering, moderately shaking hand and forced the offending object back into Marinette's pocket. The girl gave a slight moan. Alya tusked at her in an admonishing fashion. She waved her hand, and a huge amount of surprise continued to show in her dark orbs.

"No, I'm good on that," the girl began, completely amused and shocked by what she was currently saying. The girl could not believe Marinette's luck, "I'm a hundred percent sure that you will be needing that money for your job. I mean, and I don't know about you, but even I have heard of how much of a stickler the infamous Gabriel Agreste can be when it comes to common people wearing high fashion. Really, are you sure that you can even put up with that kind of prejudiced man for-"

Alya faltered, meekly asking, "Uh, how many months?"

"Only four to begin with."

The groan on Marinette's lips had Alya eyeing her with a sympathetic smirk.

Wearily, the suddenly distraught woman continued, "I will be interning for him during the afternoon for an entire semester. I should be just following him around as he does things. However, if Mr. Agreste does not want to mentor me, then I will probably be given to one of his assistants. I truly have no idea who I will be job shadowing; I'll probably be constantly hopping back and forth – if they see any promise in me, then I guess I will be there for a bit longer. At this moment, nothing is certain, but at least I have been accepted. You have no idea how nervous I am!"

"Really?" Alya grinned but scooted in closer to her friend and gave a conspiring tilt of the head, "I'm not too sure about that. I think I may know exactly how you feel, actually. I have an interview for a news station tonight; one of their reporters has quit so they're looking for a fresh face to get out in the field to cover anything from the recent voting polls to car crashes. I may even get to stand out in the middle of a tornado! How cool is that?"

"Alya, you are absolutely, hopelessly, one-hundred percent crazy," Marinette easily grinned, "Besides that, oh my freaking god! Now, you have me screaming. I'm so proud of you! Ah!"

The skinny armed female threw the older female into her own hug and squeezed tightly, silently thanking the heavens that she had a wonderful friend like Alya constantly looking out for her. Seriously, the woman deserved to become a reporter; her constant search for answers and the truth was truly astonishing, and the thought that her best friend was so close to achieving her dream had the woman smiling larger than she had in a while, except for the day that she was finally accepted into the internship program – and the girl was chosen by Gabriel Agreste, no less! – She was simply, purely, wholly ecstatic. It was a dream come true for both of them, and Marinette could not wait to see what all was in store for them, as they both soared into the vast uncertainty that was adulthood. The promise of a brighter tomorrow – hopefully one that was full of fancy expensive fabrics and handsome models – kept the girl giddily bouncing upon the cushion of her mattress. Soon, both friends were bouncing upon it, giggling girlishly. They did not care that they were too old to be partaking in such seeming childish games; it was all in the name of fun, so it was perfectly okay. They could be kids at heart. Dorky, geeky, somewhat perverted – that was mainly Alya – fun, kindhearted kids. It was not in their blood to be boring, prudish sticks in the mud.

The two laughed aloud, helplessly gripping at one another, as they continued to bounce like children, until the sound of Marinette's door opened from below them, and her mother, Sabine Dupain-Cheng, curiously stuck her head inside. She sent the two females a quizzical brow, smirking a little, before idly asking, "And why are you two jumping on the bed like a bunch of giddy little school girls? You do know that Tom and I can hear two you through the floor, you know."

The bakery was closed for the day, since it was nearing seven in the afternoon, so Marinette's parents were precariously going about their business in the living area when the sudden sounds of erratic banging noises sounded from Marinette's room, along with a few ear screeching squeaks. An impish, unsure grimace appeared on both women's lips.

"Sorry," The two spoke in an unpracticed unison.

Sabine giggled, a little surprised by witnessing the two adults bouncing on Marinette's bed, but made no further comment on the issue. The ageing Asian woman merely shrugged a one-sided shoulder good-naturedly, as she was not the kind of person to judge. She lovingly replied, "Either way, Tom made sandwiches, so there is a bunch of delicious food for you two downstairs whenever you feel like not jumping on the bed like a bunch of monkeys."

After Marinette's mother turned to go, the female twisted her neck to send the pair a cheeky smirk behind her, "I've heard that tumbling and bumping your head is bad for you, so don't fall out of the bed, okay monkeys?"

As the parent stepped down the stairs with a new-found sway in her hips, she fully managed to leave the small door open in her wake, effectively showing the fact that she strictly wanted their presence downstairs at that moment. Marinette let out a moderate sigh, while Alya moved a hand to giggle airily behind her palm. She facetiously eyed her friend with a pair of dark chocolate smirks. The fashion designer merely stuck out her tongue before she hopped up from her spot upon her bed and trudged over to the drawer of her vanity. She paused in its presence, endorsed a deep breath, and placed a hand over the handle to the hulking pink piece of furniture. Her movements were slightly shaky, as she reached her other hand into the interior of the wooden fixture to pull out a folded piece of paper. The girl raised the suddenly petrifying object to her lips. Ignoring Alya's inquisitive yet snickering expression, the woman kissed the doubled over parchment, silently willing whatever hope was remaining within her heart into the immovable document. It was scary.

Within the creased letter was the weight of Marinette's cherished hopes and dreams; it held the fruit of her labor. All of the girl's hard work and dedication had led to this moment in time, and this was the woman's day to shine. Soon, her parents would learn about Marinette's incredible achievement. They would, once again, be reminded of how incredible their little girl was, while the woman herself would continue to feel insignificant, like a sham replica of the fashion greats. For some reason, Marinette was always the first person to dog herself. She had an enormously bad habit of finding things wrong with herself that were not even there. While she was comfortable within her own skin and knew that nothing was wrong with herself – in the outermost reaches of her mind – Marinette had a disturbed feeling, like she deserved to suffer. The fashionista deserved to be put down, and when no one was there do it for her, she would consistently put herself down.

You're a terrible designer. You'll end up messing all of this up eventually. What a wasted opportunity. You used up your one shot at getting anywhere, and only managed to get nowhere. You suck. You're not pretty. No one will truly love you. No matter how much you smile, how much makeup you put on your face, or how much perfume you drench yourself in, you'll never be good enough for the living. The fashion world is a dangerous place. It will eat you alive, and then spit you out like you were nothing but a toothpick. Someone else should have been chosen. You don't deserve this. You don't deserve to be happy. You should just give up now and stay at home. You'll never make it in this world.

And just like that, Marinette's face would instantly fall. Afterwards, the woman would wonder why she, as a person, was not good enough. Why she would never be good enough. Why she was doomed to never meet the high standards she believed society held for herself. Or was those merely the standards she held for herself? Either way, the female was in a constant battle with her consciousness, as she could never reach them. The idea of self-actualization was simply out of reach yet she was so close. Ever closer, she still hated what she had become. A hidden abhorrence for herself was deep-rooted within her chest, buried in a position which was just out of view. She could never see it when she attempted to self-reflect. It both frustrated and pained the poor woman to no end, knowing that her insecurities were incurable.

In the end, there was no way for the lone woman to break down or climb over the emotional walls she had somehow built for herself during her meager twenty-four years of existence; the walls' exteriors were simply too tall and hard for her to dissolve them on her own. They were unbeatable. They were powerful, and as such, their manifestation left Marinette feeling ultimately powerless.

Now, why did she dislike herself? Not even the female in question could articulate the precise answer that that question. The woman was simply damaged goods, a waste of space who was fated to live the life of a self-depreciating enigma.

Marinette clung to the piece of bent paper as if it was a lifeline. She eerily gazed into her heavenly-blue orbs. They widened with a striking sadness in her reflection, and the girl held back a habitual sniffle, forcing back the inexplicable edge of tears in her eyes. They burned patronizingly against her retinas. God, there was no reason for her to be emotional!

The dark haired woman just shook her head at herself and quickly stuffed the folded note within the superbly efficient storage device that she kept on her at all times: her bra. The woman was just getting close to being on her period. That was all; once again, poor little Marinette was being irrational. Like always, she was blowing everything out of proportion.

The college student forced a grinning beam on her lips and sent Alya a convincing smile. The fact would be an absolute lie, if she said that she had not perfected it over the years, the brightness behind her eyes when her heart was not quite in it. Still, she smiled and waltzed over to her best friend. Throwing down a hand, the adorable woman made a quirky expression and pulled her favorite person up from her place on the bed.

Alya immediately gave a loud chuckle, dutifully moving to lug Marinette forward. Allowing herself to laugh a little, a more truthful leer gently entered the shorter girl's stare. As per usual, the darker skinned girl became the vibrant, buoyant go-getter Marinette incessantly knew her to be. In the back of her mind, she wondered how she could have ever asked for a better best friend. She thanked the universe that she met the girl so very long ago during their first day of middle school.

"Ugh, you are way too cute. Did you know that, girl? Now, let's go downstairs. I'm starving!"

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Chapter Text

"Marinette, what is this?" Sabine Dupain-Cheng, Marinette's mother, stared curiously at the folded certificate within her hand and gave her daughter a dubious stare.

Marinette shrugged an awkward shoulder, suddenly feeling shy. Glancing towards Alya who sent her a well-meaning, positive beam, the woman slowly took in a deep breath, before she finally met her mother's eyes.

Marinette's father, Tom, a thick man who sported an amazing mustache, stepped behind his wife to place his hands jokingly around her shoulders. He peeked down at the paper in her hands.

"What's that?" he asked, not having heard his wife's earlier question.

Marinette felt her face screw up slightly, as she tried to get her words to come out. The woman had been so excited before, ecstatic even, but now that she was looking at both of her parents, there was a certain unsureness that settled within her gut at the unknown; the many unfamiliar variables that taking on such an important task would mean. The idea that she would fail – could fail her family and best friend – created a newfound sickness that resonated deeply within her stomach, as a disgusting churning motion. It moved round and round, anxiously bubbling up in her front. The feeling wobbled back and forth very much like her thoughts on the matter.

Marinette mentally shook her head. Rapidly noticing how her parents' stares were beginning to appear concerned, the raven haired girl forced her heartbeat to quieten, and she gently bared her teeth. Forming a taut, settled posture, the woman nibbled unsurely at the delicate pink plump of her bottom lip and accidentally broke the skin, before she was eventually able to clumsily push out her admission.

"I may have… kind of… auditioned to be mentored by someone in the fashion industry."

"What?" her mother automatically cried. Giving her daughter a look of surprise, the older woman's eyes widened, and she eagerly questioned, "Why? When? Well, what happened? What did they say?"

An animated hum had entered her mother's voice.

Marinette took in another steadying breath and peeked through her lashes at the both of them with a sheepish expression. Blinking dumbly, her hands started to shake along with her nerves, and a small anxious flush of shame began to crawl its way up her neck. The wave of anxiety that hit her at this moment was almost deafening – crippling – and was within inches of being close enough to make her wish that she had not mentioned anything to them. Why did the woman have to go and make her decision harder on herself? Additionally, why had this been so much easier when she was admitting everything to Alya?

Mentally attempting to steel herself, Marinette threw her arms behind her back and awkwardly laced her fingers together, treading them into an edgy ball. She fluttered from her left foot to her right, as she looked through her fallen lids to peer up at her parents. In her vantage point, Tom gave a tender smile. His leer was kind and encouraging. The beam was everything that a father was supposed to be, and the kindness she found there coerced the female to slowly, albeit quite fumblingly, continue her story.

"T-The board over the placement said…" Marinette shook her head in disbelief and self-consciously changed her sentence, "They said that I might… have won?"

The last few words of Marinette's statement came out as a timid, high-pitched squeak. Nevertheless, the words were still legible enough to send her into a panic. The woman visibly paled, refusing to gauge her parent's reactions. This was it; this was the end of her life. The anxiety was horrible. Her palms were totally shaky, and a small sweat had worked itself across the length of her brow. Ugh, she was so nervous! There was no telling how her parents Was she would react to the news. Also, there was no telling how she would do in the fashion industry. good enough? Had there been a fluke while the panel was judging her and the other contestant's designs? What would they say when she walked through the door having no experience whatsoever? Oh god. What if she failed? What if they hated her? What if Gabriel Agreste hated her? What if-

A duet of excited, overjoyed gasps promptly drew Marinette from her thoughts. The sound had come from her parents, and the woman snuck a quick peek in their direction. She instantly noted the sheen of absolute pride that shown in their eyes. Sabine squealed. Feeling overjoyed, the mother of one threw her arms firmly around Marinette's thin waist, leaching around her figure. She held her daughter especially close. Then, the short Chinese woman began to cheerfully mutter into the embrace, while her husband waited with a pair of beefy guns spread out wide in a welcoming gesture. He laughed vigorously, and as soon as Sabine moved, Marinette's father stomped over to pull his only daughter into a swift bone crushing hug. She giggled on instinct, her heart feeling a tad lighter, while a small smile graced her lips. The female's expression brightened out of pleasant shock; of course she had been wrong. Marinette had allowed herself to worry non-stop for months, and what had that gotten her? Simply months and months of non-stop worrying. Everything had been for naught. She had been stupid! Of course her parents would have been excited. Of course they would have supported her, Alya too, and the three of them would have definitely helped her since the beginning.

Marinette could not help but blushing warmly at her own idiotic stupidity. Imaginably, this was undeniably not the worst scenario the woman had imagined. Most of the outcomes had been way worse; granted, many of the female's thoughts were based off her own fears and self-doubt. The poor woman had been so worried… God, she had been so terribly worried.

"This is amazing!" Marinette's mother cheered and tossed her hands high into the air. She drew them back down to herself and clapped them a couple of times with an eager grin on her face. Jogging over to an equally as exuberant Alya, she drew the darker skinned woman in an impulsive squeeze. The girl was family, practically like a second daughter to her. Plus, the cute little Chinese woman was a buzzing ball of glee, and hugging was her favorite way to both express and share her immense excitement, "Ah, I am so happy! Am I a proud momma or what?"

Tom sat Marinette down on the ground once he was finally done with embracing her and moved to affectionately ruffle her hair. Then, he readily asked, "Well, who are you being mentored by? Anyone we've heard of before?"

She looked down at the ground in response before drawing in a disbelieving breath. Then, she thought back to the folded sheet of paper she had given her mother beforehand. The older woman had yet to read its insides yet.

Marinette's words came out moderately heavy, as she dizzily replied, "Oh, yeah. You've without a doubt heard of him. Mom, can you read the note?"

"Ah," her mother made an abrupt noise, as she finally noticed the creased sheet that was still hanging from her grasp. The woman speedily threw open the letter and began to read its contents aloud to the small group, "Dear Mademoiselle Marinette Elena Dupain-Cheng: It is both a great pleasure and honor to write this message in order to announce you as the winner of our first international advisor competition. Due to your past consent, all of your best designs shall be featured in both our upcoming spring fashion show and our summer in the city issue of La Mode Foudre. Throughout the entire competition, your designs have stood tall above the rest. Overall, have been some of the greatest pieces of fashion that I have ever had the pleasure to witness. As a professional in the business, I am thankful to one day be able to finally make your acquaintance. Therefore, I look forward to seeing what else you can create."

As Marinette's mother finished the letter, her orbs gradually widened once more, and she breathlessly whispered, "Your mentor, Gabriel Agreste."

Sabine let her eyes lift from the letter in pure astonishment, before she squealed a second time and threw her arms once more around her daughter.

"Imagine, my daughter, winning the chance to be able to work under the fabulous Gabriel Agreste," the way Marinette's mother said his name made the man sound as if she were talking about a god, and perhaps he truly was. The man's designs certainly were considered by a generous portion of the world to be particularly heavenly. Not to mention the fact that Marinette had already placed the up-to-the-minute designer on a tall pedestal due to his modish genius; surely, the man was not all bad, "Granted, before now I knew that you always had it in you. I won't remark about the fact that I would have obviously supported you throughout all of this if I had known about you entering, but whatever!"

"What's done is done," Sabine continued, pulling away to gaze honestly into Marinette's orbs, "What matters most is that you have worked so hard to get to where you are today, and I am so proud of you, mon petite ladybug."

A feathery emotion occurred in Marinette's soul. Gawking desperately into the color of her mother's eyes, the woman felt her chest tighten with a strong sense of warmth. Then, it released around her in a cooling wave of relief, and she sniffled under the weight of her parent's ogles. Happy tears shown in her pretty blue orbs, and a shaky but thankful smile graced her features. The woman took a hesitant step forward, moving her hands to rest in front of her waist. Idly, her clammy hands fiddled with one another; her nerves were still on edge. Nevertheless, the dark-haired girl was fine for now. The emotions thudding around in her heart were oppressive, wholly terrifying, but she knew that she was going to be okay.

Marinette would always be okay if she had the support of her loved ones. Mom, dad, Alya – all three of them believed in her. Her heart swelled with both love and gratefulness. She appreciated their faith in her power more than they knew. A happy sob escaped the woman, "Thank you, thank you."

This was all that Marinette could say through her sudden crying spell. That is, until she lastly managed to shakily mumble, "I-I was so worried. I've been stressed out from a-all of this for months. I-I was totally petrified of rejection. I-I thought that I… that I wasn't good enough, and that I would never be good enough. I-I expected to fail; h-honestly I did, but when the letter came in, that short, little letter, and I read its c-contents, the message surprised me. The idea that I had won and that they had accepted me was gratifyingly amazing… yet it filled me with dread, and it all – everything – became completely real for me. Far too real for me."

"I just," her voice became broken, and she peered sadly across at her parents, "I just wonder if I'm good enough… and if I'm enough."

"Am I enough?" Marinette's question came out as a minute whimper.

Her father's response was an extensive saddened sigh, "Oh sweetheart, of course you are enough."

With his mustache turning up slightly, Tom sent her a welcoming expression. The broad-shouldered man ambled over to pull his only daughter into a second much needed and thoroughly deserved embrace.

"You will always be enough," the older male spoke with confliction, "You are great and talented. You are smart and beautiful. You are kind, and the people gravitate toward you. All of the customers love you. As a person, you are unique and special. You are unbreakable, you are resilient, and you are miraculous. No matter what happens, remember that."

Behind them, Marinette's mother stepped in to join their embrace. She smiled softly and put out a hand in Alya's direction, her palm facing outward. The gesture was offering, openhearted. The movement caused the woman to blink in revelation, before all of a sudden a feeling of acceptance burned in the friend's honeyed eyes. She nodded without a sound and smiled as she neared the trio. Her arms encased the three in a heartfelt clinch.

The four simply stood there, fondly holding onto one another and grinning in pride. The hug ended when Marinette coughed, willing the rest of them to look down at her and let go.

Sabine was the first to speak, "Now, this definitely calls for a celebration! Forget the sandwiches; I can pack those away for lunch tomorrow. We're going out to eat tonight! We can have anything that you want, dear."

Everyone turned to stare at Marinette with happy but expecting eyes, and Alya's own laughed in her friend's direction; a gleam of mirth settled within them.

Marinette's sky blue eyes blinked, but she fiddled with her hands some more and took in a shallow breath. In all honesty, the woman did not care where the four of them went. Basically, she was merely content knowing that her family now understood why she had been on edge for the past few months. It was a glorious feeling for her, audibly being told and now knowing without a doubt that she had a group of people behind her who believed in her abilities enough to fully support her career choices. The girl almost felt giddy.

"Um, how does Italian food sound?" the woman meekly replied, her shoulders moving along with her words. Wherever she ate made no difference to the relieved nervousness she now felt in their presence.

Alya threw up a thumb in her direction.

"Sounds great!" the reporter cheered.

Tom grinned, moving to grab his wallet from the kitchen counter. As he walked, he sent a warm chuckle over his shoulder, "You know, I was wanting some pizza earlier. Thankfully, this will give me the perfect excuse to pig out."

"Humph, like you need to do that!" Sabine cried. However, the short woman caringly laughed through her playful statement and sped off into the coziness of the couple's bedroom, swiftly grabbing her favorite lengthy side-strap purse, "I'm so glad that I'm dressed from work earlier; otherwise, leaving right now would suck royally."

Marinette giggled helplessly, as she watched her parents eagerly grab their things. It was easy to see that the two adults were excited, if only because the pair had been cooped inside the precincts of their family bakery all day. Well, the woman had no problem with indulging in their need to celebrate. The sight was endearing, and it had Alya sneaking up beside her to jokingly nudge her elbow.

"See? It wasn't nearly as bad as you thought," Alya smirked down at her.

Marinette laughed, pushed a strand of hair nervously behind her ear, and looked up at her best friend, instantly blushing a little. She quietly admitted, "Okay, yeah. I didn't die, and the sky didn't fall, so I guess you could say it's been a fairly okay turnout. Mom and Dad seem happy."

"Seem happy?" Alya ironically parroted, "Marinette, the two of them are ecstatic! They are so proud. Just like I am!"

The darker skinned female threw both of her arms around Marinette's head and formed a fist with her right hand. She placed it against her hair and began to give the unsuspecting woman an affectionate noogie.

"Ha! Now, I have you!" Alya favorably jeered, chuckling fondly with the brunt of her weight thrown on top of her, "God, you're such a dweeb, Mari! Face the power of my noogies!"

Marinette squealed. The shorter girl let out a laughing cry, fruitlessly flailing to fight her off. Ugh, her best friend was so darn heavy! Still, there was nowhere else that the raven haired girl would rather be.

Under the light of the setting sun, a stern-faced Gabriel Agreste sat with his back to the door of his office; a firm edge over his brow. With his right leg poised pointedly over his left knee, he glared out into the deepening sky, a hellish fusion of orange and red, and thought of nothing, as he stared. He remained completely mute even as a door opened behind him.

"Sir," a feminine but moderately piercing voice uttered, "There is a problem downstairs with the new line. We need you to assess the situation."

Gabriel was not even listening, as he easily spoke over her, "Did you ever send that letter, Nathalie?"

The nicely dressed woman in question blinked, her eyes falling to the ground in subtle disgruntlement. Still, she had been working under Monsieur Agreste for years now; therefore, the female knew how her boss wanted to control everything and how he only liked to concern himself with one matter at a time. For some reason, her boss was focused on this issue more than any other as of late. Although, the suited assistant could kind of understand his mood. It was not every day that Gabriel Agreste had a charge under him.

"Yes, I did," Nathalie promptly responded, eyeing the back of his shadowed figure, as he idly nodded at her words. When her boss said nothing, she spoke, "I even called the postal service to see where it was currently. It arrived to her home this morning."

A thin, somewhat thoughtful but equally as cold hum left his lips. Nathalie only stared, watching as the top of his head moved along with his breathing. Then, his form slowly slid in the chair to face her direction; his hands sat listed in his lap, while the pads of his fingers airily tapped at one another. He stared into Nathalie's eyes for a long moment, visibly gauging her appearance with a thickened air, before he inexplicably glanced down to the small picture frame on his desk. There, resting in the depth of its serenely shining glass, was an aged photo of the fashion designer's lost wife. She had been missing for nineteen years now, and not a single trace of her existence could be found. In the photograph, the day had been warm, increasingly so. The emerald-eyed woman wore a bright blue dress with plain white trim on the sides and little spots of lace around the bodice and hem. Gabriel remembered it well. The image was ingrained in his brain, and the man only had to glance down at it for a minute, before his gaze shot up to the form of his favorite and only assistant.

"The letter," Nathalie's boss abruptly spoke. The sound of his stiff voice roughly pulled the woman from her wavering thoughts, and it visibly showed in the way her orbs widened just the tiniest bit in the edges. Her expression deepened into a mute façade. Mentally, Gabriel noted this; though, if he cared was another story. The hardened woman steeled her scrutiny but watched, as a somewhat warmer line seemed to inexplicably grace his stark features, "Thank you for writing it for me."

The subject of his words caught the raven-haired woman off guard, but she rigidly bowed to his unusual gratitude. Her face became pale, as she wondered why he would be thanking her. Gabriel had never wanted to participate in such a contest; at first, he absolutely refused. It was not until Nathalie managed to eventually convince him that this would help to better image in the eye of the general public that he gave the smallest thought of agreeing. This was a way to get his name spread once again in the papers, ultimately furthering his profit. The man's face would be put on both international and local news, as the anchors cheerfully talked about the glowing and wide-eyed appearance of Gabriel Agreste's mysterious new protégé. They would mention how some of her designs were to be added to the infamous Gabriel Agreste's upcoming and extremely popular spring and summer lines. Citizens across the entirety of Europe and all around the world would hungrily take in such information. Their wallets would fly open, as money would practically be forced into his hands. Not that much persuasion would be needed from the public for the talented man to take their payment, of course. Thousands upon thousands of dollars. The plan was simple and foolproof. Because of the mysteriousness of his new charge, the Agreste's empire would only grow, further stapling itself within the confines of the ever-evolving clothing world.

Gabriel knew that the girl was good; as a naturally picky person, the professional personally studied and judged each and every applicants' work. That being said, the man was always caught off guard by her clothing. The pieces had stricken him in their utter perfection, and the thought of his immense shock still managed to throw him off his game. Because of her talents, Gabriel's fortune was sure to rise to immeasurable heights. His company that he had once built on his own from the ground up would become more of a force to be reckoned with, and everything would be changed because of this… this Dupain-Cheng woman.

Gabriel cleared out his throat. He stared tediously at his assistant, seemingly affected by his thoughts, and his gaze became colder. The man took in a short breath and quickly said, "I will be down to take care of it in a moment, Nathalie. You are excused."

"Yes sir," the woman respectfully bowed, but her lips formed an imaginary scowl. She turned on a perfectly placed heel, noiselessly clicking herself out of the room. The door was closed without a sound behind her.

Closing his ocean-like eyes, the trendy designer permitted a taut sigh. He was relentlessly exhausted. Running an entire business singlehandedly, while also managing to maintain your son's constant whereabouts, could do that to a man. He felt like passing out. He wanted to desperately curse at the world, but his mind could only succumb to it. The universe was cruel; fate hated him, yet the disgruntled man knew there was no rest for the wicked. There was never any time for resting when you wanted to stay on top. No time for love. No time for games. No time for family.

Groggily cracking at his limbs, the male peered a second time through the length of his lashes at the tiny frame that stood like a beloved monument on his desk. It shined from what little light was left spilling on it from the setting sun. He frowned a tad, his mind running away from him for a moment. There she was, beautiful as ever, but gone from his grasp. She was a ghost. An imperfect, perfect shadow of herself – of what she had been – in his young adoring eyes. Perhaps, sometimes, a glimmer of that timeworn care would still show in those worn orbs, but the feeling was now masked by a stern seamless mask. The task used to be hard, and it left him feeling pained and frostbitten, but now it simply washed over him. It came as easy as breathing; just the featherless pushing of an emotion, quelling it down into a nonexistent ache. It did not hurt anymore. There came no more pain.

Through a pair of thin red Gucci glasses, Gabriel gazed at the aged picture, idly re-imagining the day it was taken on. He proposed that he could allow himself at least a moment to ponder…

The sunshine had been so warm and bright, while the sky was crystalline blue. There was the feel of happiness in the air. A flooding emotion was in his heart, as he forgot about his worries for a moment. No clothing. No meetings. No stress. It was a time when the grass was green and thriving in the summer heat. The day was akin to the appreciations of his beautiful wife who smiled widely through a pair of makeup-less lips. Her eyes were all inclusive, hot and steady with a keenly pleasant mirth. They gleamed within the venerable photo.

Gabriel's eyes trailed downward, and a tender melancholy had him reaching down to grip at the arms of his immense chair. His foot subconsciously tapped at the ground, an edge coming about his actions, as he forced himself to regard the lower half of the picture. He felt himself swallow; suddenly quite hollow, an invisible grip settled over his heart like an unexpected vice. He stared at the image. A twinge of regret marked his features, but it was masked by his usual façade of calm hardness. This was not his fault, his mind was adamant, yet he could truthfully only find blame himself. The male's eyes roamed over the portion of the image, before he let out a low sigh. In the fullness of his wife's arms, the woman held tightly onto the form of a headful of honey blond locks. It belonged to the proud and grinning figure of a little golden haired boy. In the picture he innocently held up five fingers to the camera, a somewhat toothless beam shooting openly into the camera's lens. You could tell that the child was used to having his picture taken by the one behind the lens, his father, and he was only too pleased to bare them to him.

Gabriel took in another deep breath, as he took in the image as a whole. It was surreal. The time of the photo, which was originally taken so many years back by the actions of his own hand, was on the exuberant noon of the couple's only son's, Adrien's, fifth birthday. A day of celebration; a day that was sure to bring up only pleasant memories whenever the two men thought back on it. However, life had other plans, and fate does not always work out the way that you want it to. The two should have cherished what they had, but the day passed by in a gleeful daze, as it was certain to live on in the colors of their memories forever. Though, as of this moment, the day lived on for all of the wrong reasons. It was not a joy but a burden. It was a weight that pulled down like gravity on both Adrien and Gabriel; it tore at them and tore them apart. It was the last day that either Agreste ever saw her again.

PSA: I was almost in tears while writing this last paragraph. So freaking emotional. Please, someone help this piece of trash. A.K.A. me.

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