“Oh my god, would you just shut up?” Chloe’s voice rang out in the classroom, effectively stopping all conversations.
Chloe had her sights set on Marinette, her sudden remark drawing the attention of the rest of the class. Marinette blinked at Chloe, a frown forming on her face. Her hands, still mid-gesture from the story she’d been telling Alya, clenched in the air.
While becoming a target for Chloe wasn't a surprise for Marinette, it still startled her. Chloe had been quiet for most of the day so far, and so her sudden attack was out of the blue. It was a bit unusual for her to go off on someone without prompting.
But there Chloe was, her arms crossed, looking down her nose at Marinette with her mouth twisted in disgust.
“Sorry but,” Marinette finally dropped her hands, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
Chloe flapped a perfectly manicured hand. “Does it matter? You were annoying me. Besides, nobody cares about your stupid little designs.”
“Uh, I do.” Alya leaned forward and narrowed her eyes.
“Like I said, nobody.” She gave an indelicate snort, glancing up and down at Alya’s outfit. "And besides, that's not saying much."
Alya was halfway out of her seat before being stopped by Marinette's hand on her arm. She threw Marinette a look that said ‘let me tear this girl apart,' her eyes blown wide with anger.
Even though she would love to let Alya go and let Chloe finally get a taste of her own medicine, Marinette knew better. She was Ladybug, and she had a duty as a hero to keep the peace. In light of the sudden presence of akumas in their lives, Chloe's behavior wasn't only rude, but dangerous. That meant that it was better to handle these situations delicately.
So Marinette merely shook her head and gave Alya’s arm a reassuring squeeze.
“She’s not worth it,” Marinette told her, trying to sound more at ease than she was.
Unable to argue with that, Alya sat back down.
"That's funny because I've been thinking lately," Chloe started back up, her tone suspiciously innocent, "who here really isn't worth it? And it's pretty obvious to me that it's you, Marinette."
Marinette fumed, not liking where this all was going one bit. She tried breathing through her nose, but Chloe still going.
"Adrien’s dad is a famous designer, Sabrina’s is a police officer, and obviously my Daddy is the Mayor and a successful business man. Alix’s family has been in the museum business for decades, and even Alya’s mom is a chef.” Chloe plowed on, unaware she was treading into dangerous territory.
“But your family does... what exactly?”
“We own a very successful bakery-” Marinette didn’t want to rise to the bait, but Chloe was insinuating something about her family, and she couldn’t let that slide.
“That’s right, a dinky little bakery that is sure to be out of business before you’re even out of high school.” Chloe flipped her ponytail over her shoulder. “Pretty pathetic if you ask me.”
“Look, Chloe, I don’t care what you say about me, but don’t bring my family into this-” Marinette tried, only to be interrupted once more.
“Did I say you could talk?” Chloe threw back, and Marinette felt herself flush red with rage. “The only one here who isn’t worth anything here would be...you. You don’t deserve to be here. You don’t even deserve to speak.”
“Bah!” Chloe interrupted, loudly.
“But I just-”
“Bah dah duh!” She mimed talking with her hand.
It was childish attempt to make Marinette angry, and she knew that, but she couldn’t help feeling harassed. She was twitching in her seat and so, so red because everyone was staring at her and- oh god, Adrien was looking right at her. Her classmates all seemed surprised, even for Chloe this was unusually cruel, but no one was stepping in. At least, no one until-
“Chloe, what are you doing?” With a strained voice, Adrien jumped in.
He turned his attention from Marinette to Chloe, which helped her relax. At least, a little.
The girl smiled, it was a sickly sweet thing that made Marinette’s stomach churn. “Proving a point. Don’t act like you care about her Adrien. She’s just a lowly baker who has a weird, stalker-y crush on you.”
This information was news to Adrien because he blinked slowly and turned to Marinette. She’d gone from warm to deathly cold in an instant. Marinette could feel Alya tensing beside her, her friend’s hand reaching out to lightly touch her back. Now everyone really was staring at her, outright, not even trying to hide it. And Adrien was still looking at her with that shocked expression, and she wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole.
“I-uh, that is to say...” Marinette desperately tried to recover, but her embarrassment was getting the better of her. She felt dizzy, her shoulders hiking up around her ears and her throat closing up on her.
“See? Can’t even deny it, how pathetic.” And there was that word again, Marinette was shaking with anger and embarrassment.
“Chloe seriously lay off.” Adrien seemed to have recovered enough to turn back to Chloe, though there was now a pink tint to his cheeks and ears.
“I’m just protecting you! What if she tried something, huh? Forced herself on you or followed you home? I wouldn’t be surprised, considering how her people are I’m sure her oaf of a father bought her mother online or something, he seems the type.”
Marinette was out of her chair and across the room faster than even she could process, her hand gripped tightly in Chloe’s sequined shirt. She towered over the other girl, her face twisted into something beyond recognition. Her mouth had contorted in a snarl, and her eyes blazed. Some small, conscious part of Marinette had the sense to be alarmed, but most of her felt liberated as she stared down at Chloe's shocked (and scared?) expression.
“If you ever say something like that, about my family, again, I swear I will-” Marinette snarled, only to get cut off by the teacher's arrival.
Chloe immediately turned on the waterworks, crying and clutching at her shirt in fake desperation. “Please don’t hurt me!”
“Ms. Dupain-Cheng, what is the meaning of this?” Mme Mendeleiev demanded.
“I, I was...” Again, Marinette couldn’t seem to put together the words, her anger melting away into white-hot shame.
“Principal’s office, now.” Mme Mendeleiev stepped aside and pointed to the door.
Marinette slowly released Chloe’s shirt and took a step back, trembling all over. Several students immediately came to her defense.
“Chloe was insulting her family!” Alya protested, and a few others nodded.
“And egged her on,” Alix added.
“Ms. Bourgeois will have to speak with the principal as well, but we never resort to violence in these situations. Dupain-Cheng, principal’s office.”
“Madame-” Marinette started, her voice shaking.
Of course, Mme Mendeleiev didn’t know that she’d done the very same thing that Chloe had done, but Marinette wasn't in a state to recognize that. She felt as if she was being shut down again and started shaking even harder. The anger and embarrassment were boiling under her skin, and she could feel Tikki pushing against her leg through the purse, sensing the swirl of emotions in her chosen. But even the comforting gesture wasn’t enough to calm Marinette down.
She growled, loud and raspy and angry, and stormed out of the room, yanking the door as she went.
Adrien watched as Marinette let loose what could only be described as a roar, a shout of frustration, and stomped to the door. Marinette wrenched it open and slammed it shut with both hands, the door rattling violently in its frame. The class was blown away by the outburst and by the tiny girl’s strength, watching through the windows as she stormed down the halls.
“What a drama queen.” Chloe had stopped crying and tossed her head.
“Oh, you’re one to talk.” Adrien threw back as he glared at her and she startled.
“Whatever do you mean?”
Adrien was furious, the calm and polite mask he put up in public rapidly crumbling away. “Really Chloe? You essentially called her mother a prostitute, her father a simpleton, and then shut her down when she tried to speak! What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Mr. Agreste, language.” Mme Mendeleiev warned.
“I don’t care if you send me to the principal’s office.” Adrien spit before turning to face Chloe more fully. “What she did was sick and cruel. And the worst part is that none of you is going to do anything because she’s the mayor’s daughter and you’re too scared of her to punish her. It’s a fucking outrage.”
There was a chorus of agreement, Nino yelling a ‘hear hear’ and Kim thumping his desk. It was rare to see anyone in the class stand up to Chloe, and Adrien had certainly never let himself do it before. He usually put their friendship about his feelings about Chloe’s behavior, but she’d pushed too far. Much, much too far.
Mme Mendeleiev was unprepared to deal with a class of rebelling students and decided to try to cut them off at the source. “Mr. Agreste, I’m going to have to ask you to leave if you don’t calm down.”
“Then do it.” He delivered it like a challenge, and Adrien felt the most dangerous he'd ever had out of the suit.
She pointed to the door, and Adrien stood without hesitation, already planning to find Marinette.
Marinette had marched her way straight to the bathroom, stepping inside and slumping against the counter. Her head felt hot and strange, and she tried scrubbing her face with cold water. She was crying, she realized and pounded on the sink.
“Damn it.” She rubbed away the tears and stared at her red face in the mirror.
Marinette didn’t notice the black butterfly until it had settled on her purse.
“Silent Night.” A low voice rumbled in her ear, and she stood up straight as a rod. “I will help you get justice if in return you bring me Ladybug and Chat Noir’s Miraculous.”
“I-I can’t.” Marinette trembled with the effort to fight off the anger, the darkness of the akuma already seeping it’s way up her sides.
“Oh? You are a fighter. Maybe you will be strong enough to finish the job.”
She clenched her fists, distantly able to hear Tikki’s pleas for her to push back. It was difficult when all she could feel was the inky blackness crawling up her arms and down her legs. She fought, but it was so easy to let the darkness settle over her, consume her. Marinette gasped a breath before the black substance covered her head and she was drowning in rage.