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Sweet and Salty Water

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Urban legends make vampires seem like some of the most dangerous creatures in the world, but in reality, that also means they have the most weaknesses. In human stories, there are such things like crosses, garlic, silver bullets or holy water listed to fend off a vampire. And yet again, real life is a completely different matter. Some tales get the gist right, and every myth adds something new to the picture. Every single story finds their own, unique answers to the basic questions.
How do you become a vampire? Where’s the origin of the vampires? How influential are they in the human society? How can vampires die? Can they even die or do they regenerate themselves? Do they have a reflection in the mirror? Do they have to sleep? What kind of powers do they have? What happens to them, when their skin comes into contact with sunlight? Do you have to invite them into your house before they can enter it? Do they really exert such a strong force of attraction or do we overrate these ‘seduction artists’? And are they really fanged, blood-sucking, pale-faced, gravity defying creatures, who sleep in coffins of a bat-plagued crypt?

Unfortunately, not all of these questions are going to be answered yet.

Today was a critical day for Marinette. Not a critical day in her career as she feels she has settled in well in her internship at Gabriel. So far, the CEO has received the concept art of the designing team she’s a part of very well and her direct supervisor has highly praised her input. It also wasn’t a critical day in her period, although the symptoms aren’t that different. When those days come where her head pounds in unison with her heart and it’s hard to breathe, she knows that the second special time of the month has come. At least this time, it hasn’t come in sync with her period. And today’s weather broadcast estimated a zero chance of raining. That would have been a nightmare to deal with. However, as her internship has just began, she can’t immediately ask for a sick day.

She arrives at work, looking at her watch. She has about thirteen minutes to get ready, when Nathalie informs her that she should wait for M. Agreste in his office after she got him the documents assigned to the spring wear. She also warns her to give him water today instead of coffee, after his doctor voiced concern over his high blood pressure.

Have you ever been intimidated by the elegant, yet stylish design of a water bottle? With a certain amount of income, it is to be expected that the employer of one of Paris’s biggest designer labels won’t be satisfied with mere tap water. Marinette eyes the iced Lauquen Artes Mineral Water in its acrylic bottle cooler on Gabriel Agreste’s office desk with anxiously slitted eyes. Next to it is an equally classy looking glass on a coaster. She turns around, only to see that Nathalie has already disappeared. Marinette sighs as she rearranges the relevant documents with her teams prototypes so they lie neatly, fanned out on the table. She opens the bottle with shaking hands as her phone starts buzzing. The cap falls off and rolls under the desk. She curses and takes her eyes of the offending flask to take the call.

“Yes, Sylvia, I am already in his office. What? No, I have not seen the taffeta. Now? O-OK, I can go and pick it up immediately, anything else?” she says while crouching down to get the lid.

“What are you doing?” her boss’ voice startles her so much she hits her head under the desk.

“Ouch, I- I just..n-nothing!” she stammers as she pops up and stares into his unamused lead-coloured eyes.

“Then hurry up and get out.” he says while holding out another folder for her, probably filled with his annotations. “Tell Sylvia it’s too Eighties. Redo it all.”

She puts on a constrained smile and is about to step forward when the devilish cap finds its way under her foot, causing her to stumble. In her panic, she tries to grab onto the desk behind her to prevent the fall, but her bad luck is catching up on her. Her ruckus has caused the bottle to tip, spilling over the desk and-

“OH GOD, NO!” she yanks her arm back as quickly as possible but the damage is done. Her boss is about to chew her out for spilling it over the documents when she lets out a blood curdling scream, stopping his rants.

She has to get out. She has to leave as long as her feet are still carrying her. She tries to push past him, clutching her arm as if she had been burned instead of splashed. The spasmodic pain runs over her system, pulling, pressing, throbbing, boring into every fibre of her being. Her knees give out at the stabbing, burning ache and she nearly faceplants if it weren’t for the strong arms of the designer that lower her to the ground gently. He has been a national champion fencer, she thinks through bleary eyes before she remembers what is happening.

“DON’T TOUCH ME!” but the warning isn’t necessary after the electric shocks run over her body. She grits her teeth, fighting the tears as he stares at her in shock.

“Your eyes...you...” he mumbles before closing the door.

“Tissue… tissue...” she pleads and he throws her a handkerchief. She rigorously scrubs herself dry, trembling as he looks at her. Her joints ache. He reaches out for her even thought there are still little electric jolts running over her. She bats at him before choking out a sob.

“Alright, once you can sit again, we’re going to have a talk about what just happened.”

She sighs dramatically.


***


“So, you are…”

“A vampire, yes. A new one, precisely. And you can’t tell anyone. Not that they would believe you.”

He scoffs at that. “I have no interest in my employees private matters, as long as it is not stopping them from work.”

“I can work just fine, if you don’t spend $6 for 750ml (0.2 gallon?) of bottled water.”

“Excuse me?”

She scowls. “Ever heard of the saying ‘The evil can not pass water for its purity and cleanliness.’? The whole ‘it has to be holy water’ thing is bullshit, because holy water fonts are often very unhygienic and you have to be really, really devoutly religious. I doubt even the Pope would fill that criteria.”

“So vampires are allergic to water or what?”

“Do you remember the Siren akuma? I almost died that day, if it wasn’t for… A mermaid’s tears are one of the purest forms of water. Because they rarely cry. Prideful creatures.”

“How fortunate that Ladybug turned everything back to normal just in time… So there are actual, real mermaids in this world?”

She’s slightly annoyed with him, he can tell.
“A few live in colonies with the whales at the Arctic Ocean.”

“I see… so what about the ocean?”

“What about it?”

“Can you...”

She rolls her eyes. “I could swim in it, thanks to years of pollution, just as I can swim in a pool with all its chlorine. Same with showering or bathing. I’m not a dirty slob, thank you very much. However, my skin is very sensitive to sunlight, and I get easily burned. So I don’t like the beach that much.”

“Tea?”

“Drinkable, but I only like it in moderation, much to my mother’s dismay. China’s national drink and all that. No thank you.”

“Rain? Hail? Snow?”

“Ah, that is a tricky one. I mean, yes… and no. Again, atmospheric pollution...I’m going with ‘on any other day than today’.”

“Huh...I’ve never heard of an… ecologically sensitive vampire.”

I want to punch you in the face so much right now, she thinks over his pun.

“Well, I wasn’t born this way. The originals have it a lot harder. I was turned in -
Never mind. In two or three days, I’ll be back to normal. Or, almost back to normal, yeah.”

“Why is that?”

“No idea. The one who turned me wasn’t much of a talker. Just think of it as a second, but shorter running cycle. At least I’m not on my period today. With the extra loss of iron, I need to-”

“Alright, alright. Too much information.” he holds up his hands defensively. “Anything else I need to know?”

“You’re not going to fire me?”

“You are already a valuable asset to this company. Your input on the swimwear was remarkable. And I believe the chances I get killed are much higher with an akuma. Or a car. Or maybe a dog. Besides, all I have to do to restrain you is spray water on you.” Amusement is written all over his face.

You wouldn’t dare.” she lunges at him. They stare at each other for a very long minute before she lets go of his tie. There’s a strange fire blazing in his eyes. Seriously confused, she turns away from him and coughs into her hand.

“I better get back to work then.”

“Mlle. Marinette.”

“Yes?”

“Are you hungry or... thirsty right now?”

She stares incredulously at him, then grins mischievously.

“I can wait until lunch break. Although, we’re already behind schedule...”

And then something she never expected to see happens: He shrieks. Gabriel Agreste, known for his poise and confidence, takes a large step back. He’s fidgeting, stammering, his arms are crossed defensively and he’s spinning his ring around his finger. His cheeks are uncomfortably flushed. Huh, he’s kind of...cute?

“I was trying to say… your eyes are still a shade darker.”

“I’m aware. Mhm, I guess I could tell everyone I had a bad reaction to my new contacts or something...”

 

***

 

Zero chance of rain my ass, Marinette thinks as she’s about to wrap up her work. Naturally, her umbrella broke the last time it rained when a stranger collided with her and she simply forgot about it. She prays the sudden cloudburst will be over soon, or else she doesn’t know what to do. Her parents don’t know that she’s a vampire. Can she come up with a good enough reason for them to pick her up?

“Now that’s bad luck.”

She swirls around and is yet again to meet the face of her boss today.

“Indeed, it is. There is also the fact that I still haven’t eaten yet.”

He frowns, contemplating.

“And where does the lady usually go to for dinner?”

Trying not to flinch at the emphasis on the ‘lady’, she stares as he fumbles with his phone.

“What are insinuating?”

“I could give you ride. Now where to? Home? A hospital?”

“You’re...I… what?”

“Ah, you can’t leave the building without an umbrella. Give me a minute.”

She watches him tap a few more times on his phone, still not comprehending what’s going on.

“The driver is here in a few minutes. Now where were we?”

The list of people she can rely on in this situation is rather short. Tikki, Chat, Bridgette and Félix and, of course, Master Fu. She decides to give her cousin a call. Better than feeding on a random stranger again…

“Brie?”

“She’s not home and I just got off work.”

“Ah uhm… can I come over? It’s urgent.”

“Where are you right now?”

“I’m about to leave work. A...colleague is giving me a lift.”

“I’ll wait for you at the front door.” Félix says tiredly.

“Thank you Fé.” she answers and hangs up.

The driver arrives and hands Gabriel an umbrella. Marinette can hear him mutter something about ‘should have been more specific’ as the fashion designer opens it and holds it out to her. I’m having a sense of déjà-vu.

“Come on. I’m not holding up an umbrella for a staffer every day.”

“You’ll get wet.”

“Better me than you.”

She sighs in defeat, accepting her fate. They sit in silence after she told the driver the address. Luckily, Bridgette and Félix’ apartment is the closest to her job. As promised, Félix is waiting in the entrance of their apartment building, behind the closed glass door.

“And who is that?” Gabriel asks her, slightly...irritated?

“My cousin-in-law.” she answers equally curtly to which he visibly eases.

She sends him a grateful smile as he steps out of the car to come over and open the door for her. He holds the umbrella over her head as the sky is clearing up. The chivalrous act makes her think of both, Adrien and her kitty and she blushes at the thought.

“Thank you, Sir.”