Marinette Dupain-Cheng closed her eyes wearily and pinched the bridge of her nose at the contractor’s words before she spoke next.
“What do you mean that there’s no more leather?” she demanded. She tried to be cordial, she really did, but there was certain aspect to being a designer that meant she didn’t always have time to say please and thank you. She did her best, and often succeeded—therefore being heralded by her coworkers and subordinates as one of the nicer people who worked in the industry—but today was not going to be one of those days.
The contractor sounded contrite, at least, little consolation though it was. “Just yesterday, your supplier received a huge order from Dior. They cleaned them right out,” he explained over the phone. “I can contact another if you want-”
“Who do you have in mind?” Marinette asked, feeling bad for interrupting but knowing that there wasn’t much of an option when she was in such a horrendous situation. “My client is very particular about his clothing, and the leather is the most important part. So, who?”
The contractor listed off the names of a few other suppliers, and Marinette had to choose the second best. She didn’t want to, but as much as she wanted to please her client to the fullest extent, there wasn’t much she could do if the material he liked most wasn’t available.
Once the contractor had resolved to contact the supplier she’d chosen, Marinette hung up the phone and turned to her assistant, Aceline.
“I need you to contact him,” she told her seriously. “If he throws a fit, hand him off to me.”
Aceline nodded, knowing the direness of the situation just from Marinette’s side of the phone call. “Of course, Marinette.”
Once left alone in her office, Marinette rested her face in her hands and sighed deeply.
When she had graduated from the top fashion school in France, she had initially wanted to work for the Agreste line. She had still held a torch for the Agreste heir who she had gone to school with—Adrien, the man she’d considered the love of her life until that point. She’d thought, foolishly, that Gabriel would hire her after she’d won so many of his design competitions, and that maybe she could get close to Adrien, and maybe her dreams would come true…
But, for all of that, she had found that she was naïve. Adrien was happy to put in a good word for her in that kind way of his, but because of her constant nervousness around him that she’d never fully grown out of—at least not in time for it to matter—it didn’t lead anywhere. Gabriel was as cold as ever in their interview, and he had told her flat out that winning a design competition didn’t mean that she had the constitution or temperament to make it in the design world. Later, she had realized that Gabriel, for all of his absence, knew of Marinette’s timidity around Adrien, and had made a very damning judgement about it before she could even prove otherwise.
So, heartbroken and defeated, Marinette had started applying for jobs that she didn’t care for so much. She took her idol’s words to heart, but they didn’t really change anything; it was how she had acted around Adrien, the face of the Agreste brand, that had sealed her fate.
She had attempted another design competition in her spare time, hoping to gain some notoriety, and the day before the submission of her design, her life had changed because of one man.
Jagged Stone, who she hadn’t seen since she’d created his album cover.
He recognized her, funnily enough, and of course she recognized him—he was her favorite musician still—and he’d been polite enough, asking how her job was in design. In a moment of weakness, she had confessed that she didn’t have a job, had told him about the fashion contest, and shown him the design she was submitting. They chatted a little more, he wished her luck, and she went on with her life.
A week later, she received a call from Penny Rolling, still Jagged Stone’s manager despite the seven years that had passed since Marinette had last seen him. Jagged Stone wanted to hire her to design his concert costumes, she’d said. He wanted her to design his album covers, she’d said. He’d pay her what she was worth, she’d said, despite the number being much higher than Marinette had considered her worth at the time.
Marinette couldn’t imagine passing up the opportunity, and she was broke and jobless anyways, so she accepted. Now, she found herself the main designer for most anything Jagged Stone considered an artistic endeavor, besides his music. Because of his constant touring around the world, they didn’t see much of each other, but he made sure to give feedback on everything she did.
Only once to date had he not liked something, and of course it was because she’d stupidly taken some advice from Bob. That was the last time she’d ever made that mistake.
Still, this wasn’t where she had expected to end up in the long run, but she’d been working for Jagged Stone since she turned twenty-three and was now twenty-six. She lived comfortably and well, and had a fantastic work environment. It helped that she was in charge of basically everything, but it also meant that almost everything had to be reviewed and submitted by her.
Which was why the lack of leather was going to be her fall to take, not anybody else’s. She was sure Jagged Stone would be understanding…or not. He was very particular about the smell of his clothes, never compromising on that perfect leather and sweat scent, and Marinette could only pray to the heavens that maybe, just maybe, this one outfit could pass inspection even it wasn’t quite perfect.
Marinette had just begun to look at her deadlines for the week—for the fourth time that day—when Aceline, cowed and timid, walked back into her office. A phone was clutched in her hand, and she offered it to Marinette liked it was a ticking bomb.
She sighed. “Thanks, Aceline,” she mouthed, before putting it up to her face. She could multitask with the best of them, but doing so while talking to Jagged Stone wasn’t a good idea.
“Hey, Jag,” Marinette said, trying not to sound too peppy but also not as ominously depressed as she was.
“Hey, Mar,” he said, and it was affectionate enough that she didn’t feel as though she was going to be fired in the next minute or so. Of course, he was literally the only person who called her ‘Mar’; for the Parisians who knew her, it always made more sense phonetically to say ‘Mari.’ But Jagged Stone wasn’t Parisian—he wasn’t even French— and ‘Mar’ worked just as well for him. “What’s this I hear about ‘no leather?’ I thought I might’ve heard wrong.”
“No, your French is as good as ever,” Marinette confirmed, knowing what he had been referencing. “Unfortunately. Justin just told me that the usual supplier got wiped clean from their leather. Something about a new Dior line. Anyway, there isn’t much I can do other than go to someone else.”
“You’ve gotta be shittin’ me,” he said disbelievingly. “Really? Those fuckin’ pansies over at Dior.” He made some rude sounds that sounded like mimicking a baby crying. “Well, give me the best you got.”
“That’s exactly what I’m going to do,” Marinette replied. “You’re taking this a lot better than I thought you would.”
“Of course. I’m not a total jackass.”
“No, but you’re definitely a diva, which is why I’m surprised.” Jag grunted with annoyance but didn’t deny it. “Aceline was only supposed to hand me the phone if you were freaking out. You’re obviously not, so why did that happen?”
“Maybe I just wanted to hear your pretty voice,” he retorted cheekily.
Marinette rolled her eyes. “Yes, of course, that was absolutely it. What did you really need?”
“I wasn’t joking,” he whined, then went back to business. “I’m actually heading to Paris next week.” Marinette’s eyes widened. “Wanted to schedule a time to meet up, catch up, y’know, all that.”
Marinette hummed contemplatively, hiding that she was actually surprised—not only about the random, unannounced trip, but also that he wanted to meet up. Jag had never been anything but professional, and that meant that other than business-related phone calls, they didn’t interact much. They had a good rapport, of course, and his diva behavior and her sass combined unnaturally well, but she wouldn’t have considered their relationship to be the kind that went out just to talk.
Still, she liked Jag well enough, so she opened up her calendar app and peeked into next week. “Well, I have time from three to four on Tuesday,” she said. “That work?”
“Well enough,” he said. “I’ll have to ask Penny to make sure, but we’ll make it happen.”
Marinette struggled to not express her protest at him moving around his schedule—it would be useless. Jagged Stone was as headstrong as he was a diva, and one could say that the traits intertwined quite well. If Jagged Stone wanted something, he was going to get it or someone was going to pay.
“That sounds great,” she said instead. It would be nice to see him again, of course. She just didn’t understand why it was so important.
“See ya then,” he said, and hung up the phone.
“Well, that was weird,” Marinette said under her breath to herself, although she couldn’t deny that she was pleased. While there was a distinct lack of being star-struck after working with him for three years, it didn’t mean she liked his music any less or changed how much she admired him. She just…knew him better.
After a moment of silently being excited, she called out for Aceline. She had a lot of work to do if she was going to spend even just an hour ‘catching up’ with her boss.